What to do when seasonal allergies strike
Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 24, 2011
There are several types of allergic rhinitis, or collections of symptoms affecting the ear and nose that are caused by exposure to allergens. Allergic rhinitis affects approximately 40 million Americans. One of the most common forms of allergic rhinitis is seasonal allergic rhinitis, which means that symptoms are triggered during specific times of the year, particularly during spring and fall when pollen may be in the air or rainfall can cause more mold growth.
Early Symptoms Involve:
· Itchy, watery eyes
· Runny nose
· Post-nasal drainage
Later Symptoms Include:
· Stuffy nose (nasal congestion)
· Clogged ears and decreased sense of smell
· Sore throat
· Dark circles under the eyes
· Puffiness under the eyes
· Fatigue and irritability
Recently, treatment of those symptoms has become more accessible as there are a couple commonly used over-the-counter antihistamines, or medications that fight inflammatory responses instigated by the presence of allergen. “If the symptoms are occurring intermittently, try using an antihistamine such as Claritin or Zyrtec as needed,” said Dr. Robert Whitaker of Presbyterian Ear, Nose, Throat & Allergy. “Both are available in generic forms either with or without decongestants, which can help clear nasal blockage. In addition, nasal washes can also provide relief,” he said.
When to See the Doctor?
While allergic rhinitis is not life-threatening, complications can occur that can significantly impair quality of life. Allergic symptoms can coexist with asthma, nasal polyps and eczema and can cause complications such as asthma attacks, for example. “If the symptoms are occurring daily and over-the-counter medications are not controlling symptoms, then contact your physician to discuss other treatment options,” Dr. Whitaker said. “Alternative or additional treatment could include nasal steroid sprays, antihistamines or a prescription for asthma medication,” he said.
In addition, you may want to consider getting tested to see which allergens affect you. There are two ways to be tested: blood tests and skin testing. “How allergy test results can be used depends on what allergen sensitivities you may have,” Dr. Whitaker explained. “For example, if you find out that you are allergic to dust and ragweed or pollen, you may not have as much control over exposure as compared with an allergy to dogs,” he said.
After determining what you are allergic to, you may want to consider pursuing immunotherapy, a desensitization treatment. Immunotherapy involves getting regular injections of small amounts of the particular allergen, and slowly over a period of time, your body adjusts to the allergen. Results typically will begin to show anywhere from six months to a year after treatment begins. Treatment is usually continued for three to five years. When making a decision on whether or not to pursue immunotherapy, keep in mind that the treatment does require an investment of time and money.
If severe symptoms of allergies or hay fever occur, previously successful treatment has become ineffective or if your symptoms do not respond to treatment, your doctor can help.
Dr. Whitaker of Presbyterian Ear, Nose, Throat & Allergy is currently accepting patients. Presbyterian Ear, Nose, Throat & Allergy is conveniently located off Jake Alexander Blvd. in Salisbury, NC. The practice address is 330 W. Jake Alexander Blvd. in Suite 101. To learn more or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Whitaker, please call 704-637-5668.
Ten Common Allergy Triggers
2. Animal hair
3. Dust mites
4. Insect bites