Dr. Russell defined the four major categories of allergens that can trigger allergic symptoms. They include pollens, insects, animal allergens and molds.
Trees and grass are the major carriers of pollens in the spring and summer, while ragweed and tumbleweed are the major carriers in the fall.
Dr. Russell said in some cases it's easy to identify a person's trigger based upon the symptoms that develop, such as during a particular season of the year or exposure to a dog or cat. In people with year-round symptoms it may be more difficult to pinpoint the allergens.
Allergy symptoms include sneezing, runny nose, nasal congestion, and itching of the eyes, nose and mouth. Symptoms can also be associated with postnasal drip, cough, irritability and fatigue.
The most common indoor allergens are dog and animal dander and dust mites. Dr. Russell said it's important to reduce exposure, and keep pets in a room with a HEPA filter and replace the filter as recommended. For dust mites encase mattresses, pillows and boxsprings in allergen-impermeable covers. She also advised washing bedding weekly in warm water with detergent or use an electric dryer on a hot setting, and removing carpeting from the bedroom.
Those who suffer from outdoor allergens like pollen should keep car and home windows closed in warm temperatures, opting for air conditioning instead. In addition, make use of a mask when cutting grass or gardening and shower at night to reduce contamination of bedding. Over the counter saline sprays can be used to wash allergens from nasal passages.
Dr. Russell said most people require both allergen avoidance and medication to control symptoms. While there are many options, side effects for over the counter medicines can include drowsiness and dry mouth. Generally they should be avoided by young children and the elderly according to Dr. Russell. Also, anyone with high blood pressure or heart disease should avoid using the combination pills that include pseudoephedrine.