Attacking allergy season

By Mina Radman • Published: May 1st, 2012
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

The flowers bloom, the sun shines and the sneezing season begins. For many allergy sufferers, summer is synonymous with stuffy noses, painful allergy shots and a lot of Benadryl.

May is National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month, but one of the peskiest times of allergy season is still a few months away. According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, late August and September are known as ragweed season, and each ragweed plant can produce up to 1 billion pollen grains, which float freely in the air.

Many people who suffer from ragweed and grass allergies take prescription medication or have weekly allergy shots to suppress the immune system’s reactions. These shots are filled with tiny amounts of the proteins that cause the allergic reaction.

But researchers may have found an easy, chewable alternative to shots for people with ragweed allergies. In a study of more than 500 people, those given experimental tablets had less nasal congestion, eye tearing and other allergy symptoms than those who had been given the placebo.

The tablets are already on sale in Europe and the company that makes them, Merck, plans to apply for approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration next year.

But for those who can’t wait to ease their allergy symptoms, there are some easy steps you can take to alleviate the pain and aggravation. First, find out what you’re actually allergic to by visiting an allergist. Also, if you have dogs or cats, try to keep your home as free of pet dander as possible. Begin taking your allergy medication in late August, preferably before you start sneezing. Another tip? Avoid outdoor activities between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m. when pollen counts are at their peak.

And though allergy season can be painful for many, new treatments may soon help stop the sneezes.