Carilion allergist breaks down seasonal allergy treatments

How to decide which treatment method works best for your allergies

ROANOKE – While many of us are enjoying the season of blooming flowers and budding trees, for others, it means the misery that comes along with seasonal allergies.

Experts say about 50 million Americans suffer from seasonal allergies and this is the time of year that allergies tend to be the worst for allergies in Southwest Virginia. 

It's tree pollen season. For many people, the stuffy nose and itchy eyes started last week, and the symptoms of seasonal allergies are expected to last until early May when the tree pollen finally dies down.

Dr. Laura Dziadzio a pediatric allergist at Carilion, says tree pollen tends to affect people in our region worse than any of the other pollen. It's something that can affect people starting in childhood.

"As kids approach school age, they begin to develop more of the seasonal stuff," she explains. "Sometimes if kids are really allergic, they'll develop the allergies a little early. But the seasonal stuff, the trees, grasses and ragweed, those allergy symptoms tend to peak in the teenage years and young adulthood but can linger for some time after that."

One of the biggest issues she sees with allergies is a flare up with asthma. Dr. Dziadzio says if you notice that you or your child's asthma symptoms only show up during allergy season or seem to get worse this time of year, see your doctor as they may be able to provide some relief.

Rain, like what's in the forecast for the next several days, can help wash some of the pollen out of the air, providing temporary relief for allergy sufferers. But there are other ways to treat your symptoms as well.

One of the most popular allergy treatment debates is over local honey and whether it can help curb seasonal allergies. The theory says a spoonful of honey, harvested within 50 miles of your home, can expose you to local pollen, and make you less sensitive to the allergens.

Dziadzio says there is not a lot of data to back up the claims. If you're not allergic to honey and eating some each day won't hurt you, she says it's something you could try.

Another way to treat your runny or stuffy nose is with nasal irrigation or a neti pot. You pour a saline solution up your nose and into your sinuses to wash some of that pollen away. She says this is a treatment that many people prefer because no medication is involved.

When it comes to medication your symptoms should dictate the treatment. If you have itchy, red watery eyes and sneezing, an antihistamine might be your best option. If you're dealing with a stuffy or runny nose and congestion, a nasal spray and decongestant are better suited to treat your symptoms.

Dziadzio says the problem with nasal sprays is they have to be used every day, whether you need them or not.

"They work a little each day to help decrease the swelling and inflammation in the nose," she says. "So sometimes people forget their medicines. If they're having a good day, they may not take it and that will make the bad days even worse."

For severe allergy sufferers, allergy shots are always an option as well. You receive a shot every week for a number of months, followed by a monthly shot for several years.

Tree pollen is expected to linger until early-to-mid May. We can expect to see an increase in grass pollen through the early summer.