Northwestern Medicine

April Showers Bring May Flowers and Seasonal Allergies

Northwestern Memorial Hospital April 29, 2015

Effective treatment is available so you can enjoy the warmer weather

CHICAGO, IL   April showers may bring May flowers, but they may also be a sign that spring allergy season has arrived for more than 50 million Americans. Knowing your allergy triggers, recognizing symptoms and consulting with an allergist are ways to minimize the troubling symptoms that result every year from spring allergies.

 “Airborne allergens including those from tree, grass or ragweed often spike this time of the year,” said Anju Peters, MD, a Northwestern Medicine allergist. “You don’t have to suffer in silence. Allergies can really impact people’s quality of life, and we are here to help.”

For those with seasonal allergies, pollen in their nose kicks the immune system into overdrive. This causes the body to release histamine and other substances that cause the familiar spring allergy symptoms like itchy and watery eyes, congestion, postnasal drip and a runny nose. 

To help make this spring allergy season as painless as possible, Peters suggests you try to:
  • Protect Your Home – Make sure windows and doors are shut completely when pollen counts peak. Dust and vacuum frequently.
  • Be Mindful of Your Clothing – Remove clothing that has been worn outside when you get home. Try to wash all your clothes and bedding frequently.
  • Visit Your Doctor – Talking with your doctor can help determine what type of pollen triggers your allergies. During the visit, the doctor may perform an allergy skin test or check your blood for potential allergens.
  • Make a Calendar – Once you are able to specifically identify the culprit, create a calendar of your most severe allergy weeks.
There is no cure for allergies but simple lifestyle modifications and medications can offer substantial relief. While over-the-counter medications like antihistamines, decongestants and nasal sprays can help, Peters cautions against overusing them.

“Overusing decongestant nasal spray can make it lose its effectiveness and lead to rebound congestion,” said Peters, who treats patients at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and is an associate professor in medicine-allergy-immunology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “Oral decongestants can also have some side effects, so make sure you speak with your doctor about the appropriate use of over-the-counter decongestant medications.”

Cleaning the sinuses with a saline rinse or neti pot is one of the best ways to relieve allergy-related sinus pressure. Peters recommends using a neti pot with only distilled or boiled water and sterilizing the nasal rinse bottle regularly.

For those who don’t find relief with over-the-counter medication or home remedies, Peters suggests meeting with an allergist to discussing prescription nasal sprays or allergy shots.  There are also new immunotherapy treatment options for some pollen allergies that don’t require injections.

“Just like spring rains, allergies aren’t going away anytime soon,” she said. “Work with your physician to find a treatment plan that lets you enjoy the warm weather without the downside of allergy symptoms.”

To find a physician, visit Northwestern Medicine or call (877) 926-4664. 

Media Contact

Kara Spak
Manager, Media Relations
Northwestern Memorial Hospital kspak@nm.org 312.926.0755