NORFOLK, Va. - Allergy season is here, and according to pollen.com's map, people in Virginia and North Carolina are experiencing medium to high allergy levels.
"Most people who suffer from allergies have their worst symptoms in the early spring and fall," said News 3 medical expert Dr. Ryan Light. "The best medication is limiting exposure to allergens, but this is often impractical."
Dr. Light advised allergy sufferers to check the pollen counts and avoid outside activity during high pollen days, or wear a mask during outside activities.
"Over the counter allergy medications, nasal saline, allergy shots, and local honey can help alleviate allergy symptoms," he added. "Starting allergy medication early in the season before symptoms become problematic can help prevent the worsening of seasonal allergic reactions."
Dr. Light said allergies commonly cause runny nose, sneezing, nasal congestion, itchy/water eyes and sinus or ear pain. However, there are some lesser known symptoms like sore throat, cough, hoarseness, poor sleep, fatigue, and difficulty concentrating.
"Antihistamines prevent and treat seasonal allergies and are available over the counter," he said. "Trade names include Allegra, Claritin, Zyrtec, and Xyzal. You can also use nasal steroids or nasal saline rinses for treatment. Nasal steroids are beneficial because they do not cause sleepiness."
Dr. Light stressed reading the directions on allergy medication.
"If you have high blood pressure, ask your health care provider before starting over-the-counter allergy medications that contain a decongestant," he said. "Decongestants can cause elevated blood pressure and heart rate."
Some people take antihistamines every day. Is that a bad thing?
Dr. Light did highlight some alternatives to over-the-counter medications.
"One alternative is local honey, which contains small amounts of pollen, and has been proven to help reduce symptoms by desensitizing the allergic reaction," he explained. "Nasal lavage, with saline rinses, removes the allergens by a flushing action and also helps to lower allergy symptoms. Neti pots and nasal saline sprays and drops all work by physically removing the allergen from the nasal passage and sinus, preventing an allergic reaction from occurring."