Health & Wellness

Guest Column

Seven Tips to Cope With Spring Allergies

Credits: Summit Medical Group

If you are among the one in five Americans who suffer from seasonal allergies, you know the telltale signs that pop up each spring—stuffy nose, sneezing, watery and itchy eyes, and a dry cough. Whether your symptoms are mildly annoying or severely debilitating, they do not have to ruin a beautiful spring season. Here are seven ways Gary Pien, MD, PhD, an immunologist, allergist, and director of medical research at Summit Medical Group, says you can get relief.

  1. Find the problem.
  • Look for patterns. If your symptoms start around the same time each year and are not accompanied by fever or other signs of a cold or infection, it may be allergies.
  • Make an appointment with an allergist if you want to identify what you are allergic to and optimize your treatment plan. A simple blood or skin test, which pricks a small dose of the allergen under the skin, can screen for dozens of common allergens. 
  • Most spring allergies are caused by tree pollens. When trees bloom they release pollen into the air. When someone who is allergic comes into contact with those pollens the body recognizes the particles as foreign and produces a powerful mix of chemicals that trigger allergy symptoms.

Dr. Pien’s tip: “If your allergies are mild and well-tolerated with over-the-counter antihistamines like Claritin or Zyrtec, you may not need to see an allergist. But if you are not getting relief and have been relying on these medications for longer than a season, you may benefit from seeing your primary care doctor or an allergist.”

  1. Use over-the-counter medications.

    There are several types of drugs that can help relieve symptoms. Unless you are under the supervision of a physician, these medications should only be used for a brief period of time.

    Sign Up for E-News

  • Antihistamines – alleviate congestion and itchy and watery eyes
  • Decongestants – relieve nasal congestion, mucus, and swelling
  • Nasal sprays – shrink swollen nasal tissues and make it easier to breathe
  • Eye drops – alleviate itchy, teary, and red eyes
  • Topical steroid creams - treat itchy or dry skin

Dr. Pien’s tip: “Antihistamines are generally well-tolerated. However, decongestants like Sudafed can cause serious side effects such as an elevated heart rate, high blood pressure, and insomnia. Use sparingly. Nasal sprays like Afrin should not be used for longer than three days, because they can have a rebound effect that actually leads to worsening congestion.”

  1. Rinse your sinuses.
  • Nasal irrigation is a therapy you can do at home to clear out your nasal passages.
  • An irrigation device called a Neti pot, which looks like a tiny teapot, is filled with saline solution and gently poured into the nasal cavity.  

Dr. Pien’s tip: “Nasal saline rinses are a good add-on therapy. They can help provide short-term relief from symptoms, but are often most effective when used in conjunction with the right medications.”

  1. Take medication early and regularly
  • Be ahead of the curve. For spring allergy sufferers, patients should start their allergy regime on March 1st. If you wait for symptoms to start, you will be playing catch up and it will be harder to get them under control.

Dr. Pien’s tip: “Continue to take the medication regularly even if you start to feel better. Tree pollens usually dissipate by the end of May, but if you are also allergic to grass pollens your symptoms may last through the early summer months as well.”

  1. Avoid the trigger
  • Take a pass on outdoor chores when possible.
  • If you have to mow the lawn, wear a mask to reduce your exposure. Search the shelves for a mask marked N95 that filters out 95 percent of particles.
  • Consider wearing sunglasses or sport goggles that cover a large portion of the face to keep pollen out of the eyes.
  • If you are prone to skin reactions, cover up with long-sleeved shirts and pants.

Dr. Pien’s tip: “Pollen and other allergens can stick to your body, hair, and clothes. Change your clothes when you come inside. Rinse off in the shower before bed to wash away any lingering particles. Do not let pets in the bedroom as they can track pollen into the home.”

  1. Run an air purifier
  • An air cleaner or purifier is a device that removes contaminants—like dust, pollen, and smoke—from the air. Leave it running continuously for best results.
  • Keep your windows shut.

Dr. Pien’s tip: “Use a HEPA air filter and avoid “ionic” air purifiers which generate ozone, an indoor air pollutant that can trigger asthma symptoms. HEPA filters have ratings that tell you how effective the product is at reducing different contaminants, such as pollen or dust. If you are trying to clean a larger room, you will need a bigger filter.”

  1. Consider allergy shots
  • When all else fails, people with severe allergies may need a powerful treatment known as immunotherapy, or allergy shots.
  • Allergy shots contain a small amount of the allergen you are sensitive to. With each shot, you slowly expose your immune system to a larger amount of the allergen. Over time, this will desensitize your body to the allergen and reduce your symptoms.   

Dr. Pien’s tip: “As an alternative to allergy shots, the FDA recently approved two different sublingual immunotherapy allergy tablets that dissolve under the tongue. These prescription tablets, which can be taken at home, help reduce symptoms in grass pollen and ragweed allergy sufferers over time.”

  1. Stop Smoking
  • Lighting up or being around secondhand smoke can aggravate seasonal allergies. Fumes from scented perfume or wood-burning fireplaces might also flare up your symptoms. These airborne irritants can further inflame the eyes, nose, and throat, which are already reeling from allergy symptoms, intensifying their effects.

Dr. Pien’s tip: “Anything that aggravates the nasal passages and lungs will heighten the severity of the allergy symptoms.”

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of or anyone who works for is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer. Click here to submit a Guest Column.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

Berkeley Heights

Union County 4-H Club Reaches Out to Help after Hurricane Maria

March 17, 2018

Student members of the Union County 4-H Variety Club reached across local and state borders to help displaced pets earlier this year. Through their “4-H for our 4 Pawed Friends” community service project, they collected donations to help St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center in Madison after the organization sheltered more than 700 pets in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.

A ...

LIVESTRONG® at the YMCA Cancer Recovery Program Session Begins March 20

A new spring session for The LIVESTRONG® at the YMCA program, a 12-week cancer recovery program, will begin at the Berkeley Heights YMCA on March 20, 2018. The program is a research-based physical and wellness program in which certified Summit Area YMCA trainers work with participants to achieve their goals. LIVESTRONG®  at the YMCA helps cancer survivors who find themselves in the ...

Discover Your Inner Ballet Dancer


This 8-WEEK class will be focusing on the classical technique of ballet in a fun and easy to understand manner. You can expect a full ballet class experience from working at the ballet barre, to leaping across the floor! No experience is necessary to participate. Easy to move in clothes, and socks or ballet shoes are recommended.


Diversity and Inclusion at the Summit Area YMCA

The Summit Area YMCA is more than a swim and gym. It is more than a childcare center. It is more than a nonprofit organization. It is a welcoming, safe, inclusive and globally diverse environment.

For the past 2 years, the Summit Area YMCA has been recognized as one of only 74 Y’s in the country with a Diversity and Inclusion and Global Innovation initiative. Our Y is made up of people ...

NPHS Student's Response to After School Walk-out Plan at NPHS

March 14, 2018

A group of students file into a science classroom amid a nervous din of chatter, the air is electric with excitement and nervousness. This small group of approximately 30 students are a studious bunch, largely members of the sophomore class with squeaky clean administrative histories. They are currently preparing to defy authority and stand up for what they believe in, even though they had been ...

New Providence's Allen W. Roberts School Gets Security Walk Through by Police Department after Bomb Threat

March 12, 2018

NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ - The New Providence Police Department sent a letter to parents and guardians of students at Allen W. Roberts Elementary School after a non-specific bomb threat was reported on Monday afternoon.

It's the second threat  reported at a New Providence school in March. The first threat was reported on March 5th at New Providence High School.

Emergency ...

Rutgers voices support for proposed state budget

March 14, 2018

NEW BRUNSWICK - Rutgers University officials have often been wary of the governor's annual budget message, wondering what type of budget cuts the university may sustain and how it would potentially impact tuition and the overall quality of education.

This budget message, delivered March 13, appears to be a sigh of relief.

Pete McDonough, Vice President of External Affairs at ...

Upcoming Events


Sat, March 17, 12:00 PM

K Primary Care & Medical Nutrition Center, New Providence

Cooking Class Teaches Portion, Calories and Food ...

Sat, March 17, 7:00 PM

Union County Performing Arts Center, Rahway

Footloose, The Musical @ UCPAC March 15-17, 2018

Arts & Entertainment


Sun, March 18, 10:00 AM


Camp Riverbend Open House

Sun, March 18, 2:00 PM

Miller-Cory House Museum, Westfield

Maple Sugar Sunday



Sun, March 18, 2:00 PM

New Providence Memorial Library, New Providence

Surreal Places, Imaginary Spaces: A Literary Tea

Arts & Entertainment Food & Drink

Sun, March 18, 2:00 PM

Burgdorff Center for the Performing Arts, Maplewood

Maplewood Strollers Present John Patrick ...

Arts & Entertainment

JCP&L Representative Describes Utility’s Actions During Storm Quinn, Answers Residents' Questions

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ – The format of this week’s  Berkeley Heights 'Here and Now' was turned on its head this week. Mayor Bob Woodruff reviewed what happened in the township following Storm Quinn and its predecessor Storm Riley, complete with statistics. He then asked a representative of JCP&L questions about the utility’s response, and how it was ...

Berkeley Heights, Here and Now: Redevelopment Updates

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - The Mayor's Round Table has been rebranded to "Berkeley Heights, Here and Now." This new format will continue to provide updates from Mayor Bob Woodruff, municipal offices and the Communications Committee want to hear from citizens, businesses and community organizations.

Included in this episode, Mayor Bob Woodruff addresses the status of the ...

Now That The Dust Has Settled…Smart Tax Moves In 2018

Now that the dust has settled, here are some smart tax moves to lower your taxes and/or avoid higher taxes/penalties in 2018. These steps may be especially helpful if you live in high property and high income tax states (e.g. New Jersey, New York, California) since state and local tax deductions are capped.  Unfortunately all these changes mean you’ll need more time and energy to ...