While the colors and sounds of spring are a welcome change from the cold of winter, what we don’t welcome with open arms is the start of spring allergy season. Experts are predicting that spring allergy season may be lasting longer now due to climate change.
We talked with Cary Moorhead, M.D., an otolaryngologist with Texas ENT Specialists in Houston and affiliated with Memorial Hermann Memorial City Medical Center, to learn more about seasonal allergies and how to fight back.
What causes allergies?
Dr. Moorhead: An allergy is the immune system’s overreaction to a foreign substance. It is estimated that more than 50 million Americans suffer with some type of nasal allergy. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, allergy is the fifth most common chronic disease in people of all ages and the third most common chronic disease among those 18 years old or younger.
Is it an allergy or a virus?
Dr. Moorhead: During this time of year it can be difficult to tell the difference between an allergy, a virus, a bacterial sinus infection or inflammation of the adenoids. In most folks, allergy symptoms include sneezing, runny nose, red, watery or itchy eyes, eye discharge, chronic post nasal drip, congestion, headaches, chronic sinus infections, itchy skin, hives, and ear pain. If these symptoms climax at certain times of the year, the culprit could be seasonal allergies. Pollen is the number one offender during Spring.
How can you get relief from the seasonal sniffles?
Dr. Moorhead: Antihistamines can be a first line of defense to control spring allergy symptoms. Doctors may also prescribe nasal steroid sprays to help keep the airways open.
In the event treatment needs to be taken to the next level, allergy testing followed by injections may be recommended. This therapy works with the body’s immune system to naturally desensitize the patient to allergen triggers.
What if you don’t like getting shots?
Dr. Moorhead: Along the same lines, an emerging treatment for inhaled allergens – especially helpful for needle-phobic patients or those taking medications that prohibit injections – is sublingual or “under the tongue” allergy drops. This method can be safely, effectively and conveniently administered at home.
Are there any natural remedies to try?
Dr. Moorhead: In addition to medical treatment, allergy sufferers can take steps on their own to decrease their exposure to pollen. These steps include removing clothes and showering after exposure to pollen outdoors and nasal saline rinses to cleanse the nasal passages.
The best method to determine if you or someone you love is suffering from seasonal allergies is allergy skin testing. With the results of this test, your physician can confirm the severity of your allergies and formulate a treatment plan.
For more information, or to find a doctor, visit http://www.memorialhermann.org/ear-nose-and-throat/.