Ready for the fall allergy season? This week in Annapolis, ragweed and grasses are all rated at high levels. As summer comes to an end, ragweed pollen reaches peak levels. Each ragweed plant can produce 1 billion grains of pollen and these grains have been detected up to 400 miles at sea and 2 miles up into the atmosphere. In other words, avoiding ragweed is very difficult.
And if it feels like the pollen in Annapolis is getting worse each year, that’s because it is. This season continues a 20-year trend of increased pollen in the atmosphere, according to the Landover, Md.-based Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, which ascribes the trend to rising temperatures and greenhouse gasses.
Nearly one in five, or 50 million Americans have seasonal allergies. If you have ever wondered how things like ragweed, grasses and pollen affect your body, click here to watch an amazing video produced by the Washington Post called “Why seasonal allergies make you miserable,” first published April 20, 2015.
Here are some simple precautions which may reduce your pollen exposure:
- Stay indoors when pollen counts are highest (between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m).
- Tracking the pollen count in your area (pollen.com is great for this)
- Keep the windows closed and the air conditioner on (and change AC filters regular)
- Change your clothes after spending time outdoors.
- Shower before bed to remove pollen, especially from your face and hair.
- Try nasal irrigation with a salt water solution once or twice a day, using a neti pot or a bottle system, such as the one made by Neil-Med.
- Get HEPA air filters (one in each room)
- Use a HEPA vacuum cleaner regularly
The easiest way to save money on your allergies is to switch over to the generic form of whichever anti-histamine your prefer (Claritin, Zyrtec or Allegra). Perhaps even more importantly, look online for less expensive pharmacies and discount coupons. The Evolve App provides a link (through GoodRx) that allows consumers to not only see which pharmacies in the Annapolis area has the least expensive medication but also provides a discount card that can lower the price by up to 85%.
“It looks like you can get generic Claritin for as low as $10 for 100 tablets…vs $20 for a regular box of brand-name Claritin, which has 30 tablets.” –Elizabeth Davis, Editor-In-Chief of GoodRx Blog.
If we use the analogy of a big tub over flowing with water, anti-histamines act like a sponge would, if you can imagine, soaking up the excess water that spills on the floor. The best treatment, though, would be to turn off the tap. Nasal steroid sprays, such as Flonase and Nasacort (now over the counter), stop the release of histamine in the first place allowing some users to avoid taking any antihistamines at all. And for as little as $15/month, that could save people money and more importantly, cut down on the allergy suffering. Note: Flonase/Nascort only work if taken every single day whereas Claritin, etc may be used purely as needed.
If neither antihistamines or nasal steroids are working for you, it might be time to see a doctor. Your Primary Care doctor is a good place to start. An office visit with an allergist typically runs $200 to $300 before insurance. Allergy tests can vary from $30 to $275, and even as high as $4,000. Evolve recommends asking for the cost of any testing before you test to avoid unpleasant surprises–particularly if you haven’t met your deductible (as all that cost will be yours to bear).