Most common allergens in our area occur in the spring, summer and fall. Spring allergies mainly consist of tree pollens. Summer allergens are generally grass related. In the fall, allergies are due to weeds and other plants, such as sagebrush. Year-round allergy symptoms usually pertain to allergens such as pet dander, dust mites and molds.
Some of the most common allergy symptoms include itchy, watery eyes, stuffy and runny nose, as well as itchy nose and sneezing. Some other common symptoms include scratchy throat and feeling like your ears are plugged.
Some people experience a worsening of asthma symptoms associated with their allergies, such as coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath. Some other chronic conditions that can be aggravated by allergies include chronic sinusitis and eczema, as well ear infections.
So what is the best way to treat allergies? Our first line of defense against allergies is avoidance. For example, if you know you have problems with grass allergy, you may want to ask someone else in your family to mow the lawn. If you know that cats are the primary cause of your allergy symptoms, you may want to make your bedroom a cat-free zone. To do that, wash all the surfaces in the room and run an air purifier. If you know in advance that you are going to be exposed to a known allergen, you can pre-treat yourself with medications. In other words, if you have to mow the lawn, take an antihistamine prior to mowing.
The next line of treatment involves medical therapies. This includes systemic antihistamines, such as Zyrtec or Claritin. Other treatments may include topical medications, such as steroid nasal sprays and allergy eyedrops. There are also other categories of medications besides antihistamines that may be helpful, such as Singular.
If you find your allergy symptoms persist in spite of recommended treatments or your efforts to avoid exposure, it may be worthwhile to undergo allergy testing. Allergy testing can determine exactly what you are allergic to and the degree or intensity to which you are allergic. It also opens the door to an additional treatment option: immunotherapy. In very simple terms, immunotherapy can train the body’s immune system to be less allergic to certain allergens. Patients often discover that they get improved relief from persistent allergy symptoms with immunotherapy versus traditional medical therapies. This process can take several years to accomplish; but the benefits last for many years.
Otolaryngologists have specific training in the treatment of allergies which affect the ear, nose and throat and respiratory systems. In addition, our ENT and allergy nurses also receive special training in immunotherapy. The specifics of Otolaryngology & Allergy physician training can be reviewed at the website for The American Academy of Otolaryngic Allergy at https://www.aaoaf.org/default.aspx.
Cheryl Varner, MD, is a Board Certified Otolaryngologist with Sheridan Memorial Hospital’s Big Horn Ear Nose & Throat Clinic.