Spring Flowers Bring Spring..... Allergies
Spring is a gloriously idyllic season with chirping birds, beautiful blooms, cool mornings and warm afternoons.  Its geniality distracts us from the barrage of allergens released by flowers, grasses and trees that seek to wreak havoc on perfectly content individuals like you and me.
 
Young girl holding a sunflower
 
Seasonal allergies affect millions across the U.S. resulting in lower productivity or even missed time at work or school, increased healthcare costs and just sheer misery for those affected.  Symptoms include sneezing, itchy and watery eyes, itchy nose and/or throat and nasal congestion.  Fortunately, seasonal allergy symptoms are fairly easy to self-diagnose and control—most of the time.
 
If you’re looking to avoid the throng of red-nosed, watery-eyed victims sneezing their way through spring, follow these simple tips for a truly enjoyable (and allergy-free) season.
 
1. Allergies or a Cold?  If you have fever, sore throat, a productive cough and/or body aches or chills you may be dealing with a cold, flu or other infection rather than allergies.  Consult your pharmacist on when to seek medical attention for symptoms of a cold. If cold or flu like symptoms are present, you can get a Physician 360 Rapid Flu Test at your Brookshire Brothers pharmacy.
 
Physicians 360 Flu Test
 
2. Antihistamines are Key.  If there is a medicinal silver bullet for preventing allergy symptoms, antihistamines are it.  Cetirizine (Zyrtec), loratadine (Claritin) and fexofenadine (Allegra) are first-line over the counter treatments for many allergy symptoms.  They work by blocking histamine, the chemical that makes your body sneeze and itch in response to an allergen.  They are each taken once-daily, work rapidly and are labeled as non-drowsy.  Diphenhydramine or Benadryl, a first-generation antihistamine, works well for allergy sufferers but is not appropriate for everyone and causes a fair amount of drowsiness.
 
3. Use Nasal Steroids if Needed.  Once only available by prescription, steroid nasal sprays like Flonase and Nasacort are now available for purchase over the counter.  These products work by blocking a number of cells involved in the inflammatory process and can prevent or limit allergy symptoms quite effectively.  You can use them alone or in combination with the antihistamines listed above.
 
A graphic feature of TopCare allergy relief products on a background with a woman sitting on a park bench on a bright spring day.
 
4. Stock Up Before You’re Stuck.  We’ve all been there; runny nose and nary a tissue in site.  Before seasonal allergies attack, get ready!  Stock up on tissues, Aquaphor ointment (great for irritated skin on your nose and lips), cough drops for an irritated throat, hand sanitizer, and artificial tears for dry eyes.
 
Don’t let seasonal allergies ruin your spring.  Get outside and enjoy nature—birds, flowers and all!
 

Matt Baker, Pharm.D., RPh

Matt Baker is a pharmacist with Brookshire Brothers Pharmacy in Lufkin.  He received his undergraduate degree from Texas A&M University in 2005 and his Doctor of Pharmacy from the University of Houston in 2010.  He writes a monthly pharmacy and wellness article for the Lufkin Daily News and is active in the community.  Matt's passion is serving his patients while ensuring that they are equipped to understand and take their medications properly. 

View more of Matt's articles on the Brookshire Brothers blog.