Ask the Allergist: When Pollen Is a Problem


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

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

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

And there’s also 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. There are now FDA-approved 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 patient and doctor make these decisions together. I sit down with a patient and talk through all of the options. We consider avoidance measures – when you are outside, for example, remember to take a shower when you come inside to wash away grass or ragweed allergens.

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. And 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 or write to Ask the Allergist, Allergy & Asthma Network, 8229 Boone Blvd., Suite 260, Vienna, VA 22182. 


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