It’s that time of year locally when eyes start scratching, sinuses get plugged up and headaches occur thanks to an annual onslaught of allergies.
This year, allergy issues are anticipated to be further ramped up due to higher levels of stress people are experiencing, largely related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, according to pharmacists.
Stress hormones can release chemicals into the body which lead to a weaker immune system response to allergens, causing more frequent and severe allergy flare-ups.
“People have been under a lot more stress during the pandemic,” said Sebastiano Di Pietro, a pharmacist at Shoppers Drug located off Tecumseh Road East and Howard Avenue. “That can have an added effect for allergy symptoms.
“Chemicals get released into the body that have shown to worsen the reaction.”
Recent data show the demand for over-the-counter allergy medication in Canada has increased by 14 per cent over the past two years.
But Di Pietro said for many people it can be a difficult task to figure out the best options to treat their allergy symptoms. Too often people don’t realize there are different allergy medications for different allergens.
“Each individual’s allergic reaction can vary,” he said. “You need a very personalized approach because it is different for everyone.”
There are testing options available through a physician or people should feel free to consult with a pharmacist in a bid to find the root cause of their allergies and best treatment options, Di Pietro said.
“I want to stress the importance of talking with your pharmacist because we can help tailor it — so medications are used appropriately,” he said. “If you come into the pharmacy I want to talk with you no matter how busy. Consulting with patients is a joy for me and my favourite part of the job.”
There are also several options online where a person can do a bit of their own investigation — either through various weather networks which now post up-to-date information on exactly when escalated levels of pollen or other allergens are in the air or as they occur.
Companies behind allergy medications themselves also post online the heightened periods for allergens and best treatment options.
Additional efforts to relive symptoms can be undertaken individually such as showering after working in the garden or cutting the grass, Di Pietro said. Pets can also be a trigger for allergy issues which can be further amplified if they go outdoors, roll around and bring pollen back indoors with them.
Alcohol can also be a trigger in some people for making symptoms worse, he said.
“We are very willing to communicate with customers to figure which treatments are the most appropriate,” Di Pietro said.