Spring is a great time of year in Northeast Florida. You might not enjoy it so much, however, if you suffer with seasonal allergies.
If you have a history of sneezing, runny nose and/or itchy eyes each Spring, consider a daily dose of an over-the-counter (OTC), non-sedating, antihistamine (like loratadine or cetirizine). A few nasal steroid sprays are available without a prescription and they can help alleviate the symptoms above and any accompanying nasal congestion.
Many people find that the combination of an antihistamine and a nasal steroid spray works well to control their symptoms. Saline rinses may also provide relief. Remember to use distilled or boiled water. Use a method you feel comfortable with and keep your equipment clean.
Here are other preventive measures that may help you stay active:
- When you’re outside gardening, wear gloves and a mask
- Do not rub your eyes or nose
- Enjoy the outdoors later in the day, when the pollen has settled (morning is peak time for pollen)
- Exercise indoors
- Shower before bedtime to remove pollen from your hair and avoid spreading to your pillow and bed sheets
- Change your AC filters
- Vacuum twice a week during peak season and remember to wear a mask
- Stay up-to-date on the local pollen counts at pollen.com and www.weather.com
When to see a specialist
If the above strategies are not enough and the consistency and severity of your symptoms continue to impact your quality of life, consider consulting an allergy specialist. Discussing your particular symptoms and exposures with a physician may provide insight into additional strategies.
Skin testing may be helpful for those who continue to struggle. The goals of the testing are to identify (1) true allergies, (2) offending allergens (the things you are allergic to) and (3) the severity of your allergies.
Occasionally someone will complain of irritation in their mouth during tree pollen season. This irritation is known as the Oral-Allergy Syndrome. The immune system cross-reacts with certain foods that have a similar structure to tree pollen. One of the best studied examples is the birch tree. People who have a sensitivity to birch may also react to certain fruits (like apples) and nuts (like hazelnuts). In the fall, another common cross reaction is between ragweed, watermelon, cantaloupe and bananas.
What about drops and shots?
If you have consistent allergy symptoms that are not controlled with or other measures (air filters, mattress covers, etc.), you might consider another treatment option. Allergy “shots” (subcutaneous immunotherapy or SCIT) have been the gold standard treatment in these situations for decades. Strong data documents the benefits of SCIT for nasal/sinus and lung issues. Since the late 1980’s, sublingual allergy drops (SLIT) have become another viable option for many people. In many parts of Europe, allergy drops are now the predominant treatment.
Both SCIT and SLIT work naturally with your immune system. Regular, incrementally increased exposure to the specific allergens (things you are allergic to) re-calibrates the immune system and minimizes previous overreactions to the environment. Although it can take several months to notice an improvement, studies have documented long term relief of symptoms years after the SLIT treatment course (typically 3 years) is complete.
Paul A. Walker, MD, is a board certified Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) specialist with Baptist ENT Specialists in Fleming Island. He is a fellow of The American Academy of Otolaryngic Allergy. His office offers innovative and comprehensive testing and treatment for allergies and chronic sinus disorders. He specializes in minimally invasive office procedures, including balloon sinuplasty. Contact Dr. Walker’s office at 904.592.1068 or request an appointment.
Hearing screenings with Paul Walker, MD & Amy Brown, Au.D.
April 20, 12:30-1:30 pm at the Y Healthy Living Center in Mandarin
May 31, 9 am -12pm hearing screenings with Amy Brown, Au.D., at the Y Healthy Living Center in Mandarin
May 23 at the Baptist Clay Campus boardroom
Hearing screenings with Amy Brown, 11am-12 pm & 1 pm-2 pm
Talk With a Doc with Paul Walker, MD, 12-1 pm