Q: What are options for treating grass and ragweed pollen allergies? 

Maeve O’Connor, MD: Several options are available for people who are allergic to grass or ragweed pollen. The simplest thing to do is avoid exposure to grass or ragweed. That sounds a lot easier than it is, though, especially for people who enjoy the outdoors.

For those patients who are exposed to their allergens, we consider medication options – oral antihistamines, intranasal antihistamines or nasal corticosteroids, for example. There are also natural options available for patients – certain supplements that are available over-the-counter contain antihistamine properties.

And there’s immunotherapy. Traditional immunotherapy, or allergy shots, desensitizes patients to grass or ragweed so they can be exposed to it without symptoms and live a normal life. Also, there are now FDA-approved immunotherapy tablets that dissolve under the tongue and desensitize patients to grass or ragweed allergens.

Q: How can a patient determine what treatment is best for them?

The doctor and patient make the decisions together. I sit down with my patients and talk through all of the options.

We consider avoidance measures first. After you spend time outside, for example, remember to take a shower when you come inside so that you can wash away grass or ragweed allergens from your hair or skin. Then I’ll discuss medication options: taking a pill vs. liquid allergy medicine; or how to use a nasal spray if that’s an option that will work. I’ll also explain how immunotherapy works and if it can benefit them.

Then we come to a decision on a treatment that best fits the needs and preferences of the patient.

Maeve O’Connor, MD, FACAAI, is a board-certified allergist and immunologist with Allergy, Asthma & Immunology Relief (AAIR) in Charlotte, North Carolina. She serves on the Board of Regents with the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI).

Have a medical question? Email editor@allergyasthmanetwork.org or write to Ask the Allergist, Allergy & Asthma Network, 8229 Boone Blvd., Suite 260, Vienna, VA 22182. 

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