Myth: Flowers are a common trigger for seasonal allergies. "It's rare for flower pollen to contribute to seasonal allergies," Costa said. Flower pollens are relatively heavy and fall to the ground rather than lingering in the air. In contrast, pollens from trees (such as birch, oak, elm, maple and cottonwood), grasses and weeds are very light and stay airborne for a long time, he explained. "Unlike tree and grass pollens, you can control your exposure to flowers," Costa said.
Myth: All nasal sprays are bad. Patients need to use some nasal sprays selectively and judiciously, Costa told Live Science. Topical nasal steroids are usually best for people with seasonal allergies, he said. They work by reducing inflammation in the lining of the nose. Most are available by prescription and can be used safely for years without worry, Costa said. One brand, Nasacort AQ, is now available over the counter.
However, the sprays can have a downside. People sometimes call over-the-counter nasal decongestant sprays addictive, Costa said, and it's true that when people use decongestant sprays for more than five days in a row, the blood vessels lining the nose can become dependent on the drugs, and rebound congestion is a common problem. To relieve the stuffiness, some may use even more nasal spray, and get caught in a vicious cycle of overuse.
Myth: You only need to take allergy medication when you start feeling terrible. Allergies are an inflammatory response, and their effects can last for weeks. "It makes more sense to use allergy medications on a consistent basis to maintain control over moderate to severe allergies," Costa explained. People should know their allergic triggers and their seasons, and then use medications regularly when those pollens are in the air, he suggested.
Myth: Allergy shots are not worthwhile. Over the last 20 years, allergy shots have become more sophisticated and fine-tuned, Costa said. The shots are typically given to people with the most severe symptoms. "In 2014, we have a much better chance of using the right dosages of allergens than we did with your grandfather's allergy shots," he said. The FDA has recently approved daily tablets that dissolve under the tongue as an alternative to allergy shots, but they are only available for ragweed or grass pollens.
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