Are You Ready for Spring Allergies?

by Sunghun Cho, M.D, FAAD MAJ, MC, USA Chief, Dermatology Service
OIC Medical Specialties Clinic

Spring will soon be here and along with spring comes spring allergies. 

Are you ready?

The time to get ready is now.

Spring allergies, hay fever or whatever you call it can make you feel miserable. 

Have you had allergies in the past?  If so, what were your symptoms?  You might have had sneezing, itchy, watery eyes, congestion and nasal drainage, blocked ears, sinus or ear pain.

Symptoms include:

Eyes – watery, itchy, red eyes

Ears – itching, blocked, popping or painful ears

Nose – sneezing, itching, and congestion with clear nasal drainage

Throat – pain, itching, drainage and coughing especially at night

Head and face – sinus pain and pressure

How are allergies treated?  Symptoms are best treated with a daily allergy medication.  It is better to start the daily medications at least one to two weeks prior to the start of allergy season (March in Korea).  It can take one to two weeks of daily medications for best results. 

The following medications are used for allergy treatment and their purpose(s):

1. Nasal Saline  or Nasal Rinses  =  Keep the nose moist and clear of pollen

2. Antihistamines  =  Decrease your allergic reaction to pollen

a. Pills – Claritin, Allegra and Zyrtec
b. Nasal Spray – Astelin

3. Nasal Steroids  =  Decrease swelling in the nose

a. Flonase or Flunisolide nasal sprays
b. Nasonex – Special order required

4. Decongestants  = To decrease congestion

a. Sudafed Pills
b. Afrin Spray (3 day max use)
c. Sudafed Combinations such as Allegra D or Mucinex D (D stands for decongestant)

5. Allergy Eye Drops  =  Patanol Eye Drops  =  To decrease eye itching with allergies

**IMPORTANT NOTE:  If you have High Blood Pressure (Hypertension),  AVOID Sudafed pills or combination medications with Sudafed unless discussed with your Healthcare Provider.

What happens if allergies are not treated:

- Your allergy symptoms may continue for extended periods

- You can develop secondary infections  such as:  Ear infections, sinusitis (sinus infections), pharyngitis or strep throat, bronchitis and asthma exacerbation

Allergy symptoms and secondary infections CAN be prevented.


1. Avoid allergens when possible

2. Start daily medication by early March

3. Allergy medications work best when started 1-2 weeks ahead of allergy signs and symptoms and taken on a daily basis

4. If you take daily allergy medications and still have congestion or other allergy symptoms – add decongestants (except for those with high blood pressure)

5. If you have a cough from your allergies consider Robitussin DM or Mucinex DM, but follow-up with your Healthcare Provider if you experience any of the following:

a. Your cough lasts more than 3 weeks,
b. Shortness of breath
c. Wheezing

6. If you smoke, you are more likely to get secondary infections, so work on quitting and arrange a medical appointment if you need help quitting.

When to seek help?   Seek medical attention for your symptoms if they are getting worse despite taking allergy medications or if you have a fever, wheezing or shortness of breath, headaches, sinus pain or a worsening cough.

How can you get allergy medications?

1. Buy them at the commissary or PX.

2. Sign out from the BAACH pharmacy – available without prescription:

a. Nasal saline
b. Claritin pills or children’s liquid
c. Actifed – antihistamine/decongestant combination
d. Chlor-Trimeton - antihistamine
e. Phenylephrine – decongestant
f. Dimetapp – children’s combination cold/allergy liquid
g. Robitussin DM – cough syrup

3. If you have been treated for allergies before?  You can send a RELAY HEALTH message to your provider for a renewal of your allergy medications.

4. If you need further evaluation you can make an appointment through TRICARE ONLINE or by calling central appointments at 737-CARE (2273).

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