Though Dr. Beno does not advise formal allergy tests unless the allergies are severe, not controlled by medications, and the patient is willing to commit to weekly shots for three years, he does encourage avoidance. "If you can avoid going out of doors when the pollen to which you are allergic is high, that is a very good thing to do," he says. "You do not need formal allergy testing to do your own informal tests — if you have allergy symptoms, look up the reported pollen counts for your area, and chances are — except for pine — that list includes what you are allergic to."
Over-the-counter medications may be an allergy sufferer's best friend if avoidance is out of the question. "Long-acting, non-sedating antihistamines are the mainstay of therapy," says Dr. Beno. "These drugs — loratadine and ceterizine — are safe, generically available, inexpensive, available in both liquid and pill form and very effective." For those whose problems surpass the seasonal sniffles, prescription medication may be helpful. "If the OTC meds do not help, there are many nasal steroids that can make a huge difference for allergy sufferers."
"Another good tip is to change your furnace filter every three months, as this will help lower the pollen count in your house," Dr. Beno adds. "Usually, I recommend a micro-pore filter, as this is better at catching small allergen particles."
Michelle is a freelance writer based in San Francisco.
Published: April 5, 2011
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