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Your Healthy Family: Know the difference between allergies and illness

Posted: 7:28 AM, Mar 20, 2020
Updated: 2020-03-20 09:28:35-04

CLEVELAND, OHIO — March 19 marks the first day of spring – which means spring allergy season is just around the corner.

But in the midst of current public health concerns, it’s important to be able to distinguish allergy symptoms from other illnesses.

Cleveland Clinic allergist, Alice Hoyt, M.D., said there’s one telltale sign that shows if someone is suffering from seasonal allergies.

“The biggest symptom someone should think about is itchiness. So, does their nose itch? Is that something that really prompts sneezing? Do their eyes itch? And then are they noticing these kind of itchy, congested, kind of itchy, drippy, sneezy, is what I call it,” she said. “Do they notice those symptoms, especially when the seasons are changing?”

Doctor Hoyt said many seasonal allergy symptoms can be treated effectively with over-the-counter products.

However, she admits it can be overwhelming to see an aisle of boxes labeled ‘allergy relief.’

She said one of the most effective ‘go-to’ treatments for seasonal allergies is a nasal steroid spray.

“The way it works, is by suppressing the inflammation in the nose using steroids,” said Dr. Hoyt. “They’re not an immediate effect type of medication – you do need to use it, for at least a few days, to really start to see some effect.”

When it comes to oral medications, she said it’s key to know the difference between decongestants and antihistamines.

“I encourage my patients to avoid anything that has the ‘D’ in it, because that means it has a decongestant,” said Dr. Hoyt. “And typically, even with severe cases of seasonal allergies, you don’t need the ‘D’ medication every day.”

Dr. Hoyt said people who are unsure which ingredients are best for symptoms, should consult their doctor or pharmacist.

If allergy medications are not helping symptoms, it’s best to call the doctor to further discuss the situation.