By Alicia Wanek
You can feel it coming on. Your nose gets stuffy. Your throat starts to feel dry and scratchy. Then you sneeze. Here they come – again, the dreaded spring allergies. Whether its pollen, ragweed, cedar, or whatever triggers your symptoms, you know they’re coming. Maybe this time you’ll be ready to tackle them head on.
According to the Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America, researchers believe about 50 million people in the United States have nasal allergies, and allergic rhinitis accounts for as many as 11.1 million doctor visits annually. Allergies are most prevalent in people during their second or third decade of life (teens and early twenties) and again during their 50’s, though researchers aren’t truly sure why. It’s one of the most common diseases, but perhaps because it is so common, it is also one of the most overlooked. There is no cure, but you can treat your symptoms, and advances in recent years have made management of seasonal allergies much more successful.
Dr. Harry Dorsey, an internist with over 40 years of experience treating allergy symptoms, says, “Sometimes a combination of three drugs in addition to a sinus rinse may be necessary to control symptoms. The three drugs work through different pathways to mediate the allergic response. These are usually an anti-histamine, a leukotriene inhibitor (like Singulair), and a nasal steroid spray.” He points out that the over-the-counter nasal sprays with fluticasone propionate (as in Flonase) only became available without a prescription in the summer of 2015, and have been extremely beneficial to some patients. When someone with severe allergies goes outdoors for extended periods of time, like to cut the grass or to attend an outdoor event, the use of a sinus rinse is suggested. These rinses literally flush the allergens out of the nose to prevent the worsening of symptoms.
But what about when the runny nose, itchy eyes, and sneezing just don’t go away? Dr. Dorsey says, “When your symptoms are no longer controlled, you should seek medical attention.” A physician can prescribe stronger medications, or they may suggest you alternate your anti-histamine every six months as some patients develop a tolerance to one. If the symptoms persist, then referral to an allergist might be appropriate.
Another consideration is that your symptoms might not be caused by allergies at all. According to Daphne Lewis, center manager for the Hulen location of Envision Imaging, “Sinusitis (inflammation of the sinuses) is the most common type of sinus disease. Many of the symptoms are similar to those of seasonal allergies or a common cold. However, the symptoms of chronic sinusitis vs allergies can last for many weeks. We offer high resolution, state of art CT (computerized tomography) and digital X-rays of the chest and sinuses to help diagnose the illness. We also provide specialized CT scans for ENT specialists for navigational surgical procedures, such as Stryker protocols.”
The Stryker navigational protocol is an exciting development in endoscopic sinus surgery. A physician should decide if you’re a good candidate for radiological procedures to determine the cause of your symptoms.
There was a sign in a local physician’s office that said, “’I love allergy season,’ said no one ever.” You shouldn’t have to spend your entire spring miserable every time you walk out the door. The good news is that there are new options to help you get through and to make sure your symptoms are caused by allergies in the first place. Now, if they could just work on my apparent allergy to mornings. . .