Atlantic County Woman - May/June 2018

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Seasonal Allergies


pring has sprung. And as temperatures rise, an estimated 50 million Americans will be afflicted with runny and itchy noses, sneezing, coughing, puffy eyes, and even shortness of breath from seasonal allergies. Also referred to as hay fever or allergic rhinitis, these symptoms can be miserable and interfere with our sleep as well as exacerbate asthma symptoms or cause a sinus infection. And, unfortunately, there is no known cure for seasonal allergies. However, there is much in the way of prevention and treatment that can be done to help you survive. So, if you or a loved one is battling allergies, here are some helpful tips:

Dr. Nina’s What You Need To Know: About Allergy Season and How to Manage It

What is pollen? The fertilizing element of flowering trees, grass and weeds.

Due to its light weight, pollen is readily carried over large distances. And, as a result, it creates havoc for allergy suffers—facilitating its ability to land in our nostrils and enter our lungs. Depending on where you live, there are generally three pollen seasons—in the spring, trees and flowers; in the summer, grasses; and in the fall, leaves and weeds (and molds). How does pollen cause allergy symptoms? For some of us, our body mistakes pollen as a dangerous, foreign invader. And, as a result, it mounts a fierce, ”take-no-prisoners” attack where chemicals such as histamine or leukotrienes are released. They work in a concerted manner to evict the foreign invader by making you sneeze, your nose run, your eyes water, and cough. And although this is a clever disposal system when it comes to germs or other things that can make us sick, it can be agonizing.

What other problems can allergies cause? In addition to the miserable symptoms, seasonal allergy sufferers can experience a plethora of other health problems: • Sleep deprivation from nasal congestion or coughing that leads to daytime drowsiness and its associated problems—difficulty concentrating, grouchiness, and headaches, to name a few. • Asthmatics may see an exacerbation of their otherwise well-managed symptoms because pollen triggers it. • Chronic sinusitis can result from the chronic inflammation of the nasal passages along with mucus production that results in obstruction and subsequent bacterial obstruction. • There is also some research that suggests seasonal allergies can contribute to chronic fatigue syndrome and depression (possibly from sleep deprivation or triggered by inflammatory reactions in the body).

Keep pollen out of the home: • When you enter your home, make sure to park your shoes at the door, immediately change your clothes, and take a shower. • Use air-conditioning in the house or car instead of opening windows. • Wash bedding in hot water at least once a week. • Change air filters and choose high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters. They are specially designed to trap pollen and dust and can provide much-needed relief from pollen in the house. • Wipe down your pets before they enter the house.

What are some effective home remedies?

• Inhaling steam through your nose is a simple way to refresh and soothe irritated sinuses and help rid the nasal passages of mucus. You can boil several cups of water, then pour them into a big bowl, lean over the bowl, and drape a towel over your head. Then, breathe gently for 5 to 10 minutes. • Saline sprays can flush pollen out of our nasal passages, thin and clear mucus, and combat the drying effects of prescription allergy medications. They are available at most pharmacies and can also be made by mixing a teaspoon of salt into 1 quart of distilled or boiled water and using a baby aspirator to administer it once the water cools. • Neti pots are typically made of ceramic or plastic and can best be described as a cross between a small teapot and Aladdin’s magic lamp. They use a mechanism similar to saline sprays—the nasal cavities are rinsed with a saline solution to flush pollen out and soften mucus. The difference is that instead of squeezing a bottle, the “snout” of the pot delivers the solution.

What are some over-the-counter medications?

• Antihistamines relieve sneezing, runny nose, and itchy eyes and nose. Some examples are diphenhydramine, loratadine, cetirizine, and fexofenadine. • Decongestants alleviate nasal stuffiness by shrinking the lining of nasal passages. Some examples are pseudoephedrine, phenylephrine, and oxymetazoline. Always check with your pharmacist before starting any new medication—and always discuss all other medications you are taking prior to starting any new medications. Follow instructions on the label. And if you are not getting relief— DO NOT take more medication than recommended in an attempt to lessen your symptoms, but DO call your primary physician to determine which treatment is best for your symptoms. There are a number of prescription medications that can help.

What are some tips to survive allergy season?

If you know you suffer with seasonal allergies, start to protect yourself early on—if you have not already, take action now.

Reduce your exposure to triggers:

• Block pollen from landing on your eyes or nostrils by wearing a large-brim hat or cap and large sunglasses when outdoors. • Minimize time spent outdoors when pollen counts are high—this typically runs midday to afternoon—and also when it is windy.

Nina Radcliff, M.D., is a practicing physician; a Board Certified Anesthesiologist and member of the American Society of Anesthesiologists where she serves on committees for young physicians and communications. Often called upon by media to speak to medical health topics impacting our lives today, Dr. Nina is passionate about sharing truths for healthy, balanced living as well as wide preventative measures.

This article is for general information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions and cannot substitute for the advice from your medical professional. Dr. Nina has used all reasonable care in compiling the current information but it may not apply to you and your symptoms. Always consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions.

The County Woman Magazine

May/June 2018