Spring Allergy Facts and Myths

By Lauren Cooperman

Spring time is a season that many people look forward to.  It’s the season where you can shed your winter clothes, dust off your barbeque, and begin enjoying the great outdoors.  However, for the 50 million people in the United States suffering from allergies, the spring season can invoke some feelings of dread and anxiety for the itchy-sneezy season ahead of them.

There is plenty of information out there about how to “properly” treat allergies, but distinguishing what is fact from fiction can be difficult.  “People often sneeze and wheeze through spring if they use misinformation to manage their condition,” allergist Dr. Myron Zitt told the WAUSAU Daily Herald.  “But no one should suffer from spring allergies.  Knowing the facts, getting a proper diagnosis and the right treatment allows allergy patients to feel good all season long.”

Members of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology released information to help allergy sufferers trudge through the facts about our allergies versus the myths.

MYTH:  Over the counter (OTC, non-prescription) oral antihistamines are just as effective prescription medicines in controlling a stuffy nose.

FACT: OTC antihistamines can help control some allergy symptoms, but they have little effect on relieving a stuffy nose or the inflammation that often occurs with allergies.  Also, OTC allergy medicines can cause drowsiness.  If your medication is not helping your stuffy nose, consult an allergist.

MYTH: OTC decongestant nasal sprays are addictive.

FACT: OTC decongestant nasal sprays are technically not addictive.  However, it is easy to overuse them because of the relief from congestion that it brings.  Experts warn not to use them more than three days in a row.  If you feel that more than three days is needed speak to your allergist about obtaining a prescription nasal spray with steroids.

MYTH: Allergy shots require too much time and are more expensive than taking medicine to relieve symptoms.

FACT: Depending on how aggravating your allergies are, immunotherapy (allergy shots) may actually save you money and improve your quality of life.  A recent study showed that immunotherapy reduced total health care costs in children with allergies by one-third, and prescription costs by 16%.

MYTH: A blood test is the best way to diagnose allergies.

FACT: Truthfully, skin tests are more sensitive than blood tests.  In skin testing the inside of the arm is pricked with the allergen.  If you are allergic the pricked site will turn red and swollen.  Skin testing is very safe for people of all ages, but no single test alone provides the entire picture for every patient.

To learn more about allergies, to take a relief test, or to find an allergist, go to www.allergyandasthmarelief.org.