Summer is a time to be outside and enjoy the beautiful weather of the Pacific Northwest. It’s the season for hiking, camping, swimming, grilling, and gardening. But if you suffer from summer allergies, the outdoors may not be so appealing.

Millions of people across the country will be gearing up to once again battle a problem that occurs every year.

Itchy eyes, sneezing, nasal congestion, and a perpetually runny nose are common symptoms of seasonal allergies. Summer allergies can cause severe symptoms and can be just as bad as the spring and fall seasons.

A recent study indicates that allergies are the sixth leading cause of chronic illnesses in the U.S.

Common summertime allergies include grasses, pollen, trees, weeds, and mold. Pets, insects, and poison oak can also cause allergic reactions. Thankfully, despite how infuriating and disruptive seasonal allergies can be, there are easy steps that can be taken to lessen their impact.

An allergy occurs when your immune system reacts to a foreign substance, called an allergen. It could be something you breathe, eat or touch. Common symptoms include a constantly runny nose, sneezing, itchy eyes, sinus congestion, dark circles under your eyes, coughing, fatigue and a scratchy throat. Severe allergies that cause rashes, wheezing, and difficulty breathing need emergency care.

Many people with allergies also have asthma and sinus problems. Chronic sinusitis is an inflammatory condition of the sinuses that can cause nasal congestion, drainage, facial pain or pressure, decreased smell, and fatigue. Allergies can cause many if not all of these same symptoms.

An ENT (ears, nose, and throat) specialist can help you to identify and treat these issues.

Here are some basic tips and strategies to reduce allergy symptoms while you stay active this summer.

1. Keep track of pollen forecasts. Dry and windy weather can stir up allergens. If the pollen count is high, consider staying indoors or exercise in the early morning. In addition to staying out of peak sun, early morning has the added benefit of dew to keep the pollen at bay.

2. Get tested. To really understand your symptoms and their causes, it is best to undergo allergy testing. This can help determine the cause and the best treatment options.

3. Try medications. Over-the-counter treatments, such as antihistamines (Zyrtec, Claritin, and Allegra) and nasal steroid sprays (Flonase and Nasacort), can ease symptoms and make you less miserable.

4. Consider desensitization. Immunotherapy (allergy shots) can reduce allergy symptoms and provide better control of asthma and sinus problems. Over time it is possible to alter an excessive allergy response and make your immune system less sensitive to allergies. This can improve symptoms and decrease the need for medication and allergen avoidance for many years.

Being outside on a nice summer day should not leave you suffering. All you need to do is take some extra precautions and consider seeing an ENT allergist or talk to your healthcare provider about your condition. There are many treatment options to help you have your best summer yet. Breathe better. Feel better. Live better.

Randall Loch, M,D., is an Otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat specialist) with ENT Associates at 2423 NW Troost St. in Roseburg. He is a fellowship trained in rhinology and specializes in treating sinus and allergy disorders.

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