Simplified: Spring is here, which means so are seasonal allergies. Sanford Health Allergist Dr. Nikki Patel shared some tips for identifying and treating allergies, as well as when to call your doctor.

Why it matters

  • As the weather warms, tree pollen and sometimes mold allergies become more prominent, Patel said. These seasonal allergies are also becoming more noticeable earlier in the year with milder winters due to climate change.
  • Allergies can have many of the same symptoms as a cold or COVID-19, but often what distinguishes allergies is their staying power. Allergy symptoms will outlast the typical cold or virus, and don't include symptoms like fevers and muscle aches, Patel said. Though, when in doubt, get tested.
  • There are treatment options available for allergies, even severe ones. The trick is recognizing the symptoms and knowing when to talk to your doctor, she added.
"Many patients who are adults say it's been years – or since childhood – and they just never got (allergy symptoms) evaluated," Patel said. "You can treat it so you have a better quality of life."

How to treat allergies

There are several levels of treatment options, and often if one method doesn't work, it's time to level up.

One option is what Patel calls "environmental reduction measures."

  • Simply put: Don't go out side if you have really bad symptoms.
  • Or, if you do go outside, rinse off afterward so pollens don't stick around in your home.

That said, there are ways to treat allergies so that you can still go outside, Patel said.

"Our goal with the interventions that we do is that they don' have to stop doing whatever they enjoy doing," she said.

There are also over-the-counter medicines that can help. Those include

  • Saline nasal sprays
  • Steroid nasal sprays
  • Eye drops
  • Oral antihistamines

The next level of treatment includes oral decongestants like Sudafed.

  • Patel recommends talking to a doctor before use because consistent use can increase blood pressure.

The next level of treatment would be to talk to an allergy doctor about prescription medication.

  • If that still doesn't work, your doctor may recommend skin testing to identify which allergens you're allergic to.
  • From there, you may have the option to receive allergy shots.

When to call a doctor

If allergies are affecting your ability to enjoy the things you enjoy doing, call a doctor, Patel said.

"If it is something that's bothersome to you, get it evaluated," she said.

Patel also recommends calling a doctor if you've used over-the-counter medications without experiencing much relief. It might be time to level up.