Rheumatoid arthritis and seasonal allergies co-exist often— but experts aren't sure why. We do know that rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease, meaning that the immune system mistakenly attacks the body's healthy organs and tissues as though they were foreign invaders. Likewise, says Mark Jacobson, MD, of Hinsdale, Illinois, an allergist/immunologist in private practice and a past president of the Illinois Society of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, allergies occur when your immune system overreacts to exposure to antigens such as pollen and mold from trees, grass, and weeds in the environment.
Because your body senses these antigens as foreign and a threat, your body produces antibodies. The antibodies, part of your immune system that normally helps protect you from infections, travel to your cells. Your cells release chemicals called histamines, causing the mucous membranes in your eyes, nose, and sinuses to swell. Seasonal allergies aren't often life-threatening, Dr. Jacobson says, but they can make you uncomfortable, causing symptoms such as sneezing, stuffiness, a runny nose, and itchiness in your nose, the roof of your mouth, throat, eyes, or ears.
Rheumatoid Arthritis Symptoms Versus Seasonal Allergy Symptoms
But the 1 last update 2020/07/09 if you do have RA and seasonal allergies, what can you do to treat those cold-like symptoms? Jacobson says his recommendations are the same regardless of whether or not you have RA. Start by trying to minimize exposure to airborn allergens by:But if you do have RA and seasonal allergies, what can you do to treat those cold-like symptoms? Jacobson says his recommendations are the same regardless of whether or not you have RA. Start by trying to minimize exposure to airborn allergens by:
- Keeping the windows in your home closed. "This prevents pollens from drifting into your home," Jacobson says. Run the air conditioner instead.
- Minimizing early morning activity when pollen levels are at their highest, between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m.
- Keeping your car windows closed when driving
- Staying indoors on windy days when pollen is likely to be present in higher amounts in the air
- Taking a vacation during the height of the pollen season to a more pollen-free area, such as the beach or an ocean cruise
- Avoiding yard work, or wearing a mask or bandanna over your nose and mouth when working outside
- Using a clothes dryer to machine-dry bedding and clothing, instead of hanging clothes on a clothesline, which can cause laundry to become coated with pollen
- Washing your hair in the evening before bedtime to avoid getting pollen on your pillow
Rheumatoid Arthritis Medications and Over-the-Counter Allergy Treatments
Several over-the-counter antihistamines, decongestants, or nasal sprays are available to treat your hay fever symptoms, but if you have RA, you should consult with your doctor or pharmacist first. It's especially important that you coordinate your medications if you're taking them for other problems such as depression, sleep problems, or anxiety, as they may have sedative effects (though decongestants can cause insomnia). You could risk having dangerous drug interactions.
Arthritis Curehow to Arthritis Cure for Always consult with your doctor first, Jacobson says. Also, don't confuse or interchange your hay fever medications with the medications that treat your rheumatoid arthritis symptoms such as joint pain. Your doctor may suggest that you use a corticosteroid nasal spray to treat seasonal allergies, but that doesn't replace the corticosteroid pill that your doctor prescribed to reduce inflammation from arthritis. The corticosteroid in the nasal spray is minimally absorbed into the bloodstream, so it will have little effect on your system. Abruptly stopping your oral corticosteroid treatment could potentially cause serious health problems.
If you continue to experience symptoms related to seasonal allergies, limit your exposure to pollen and mold in the air and talk to an allergist about the medical treatment that's best for you. Go to the website of the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology to locate an allergist in your area.