Achoo! My head hurts, I’m sneezing, my throat and eyes itch, and I feel congested. What’s going on? Am I contracting a virus? Is it just that time of year again for my seasonal allergies?
To start this entry off, we need to clarify something to avoid confusion. Seasonal allergies can go by different names: hay fever, allergic rhinitis, or seasonal allergic rhinitis. These refer to the same concept of certain allergies arising during the spring, summer, and fall each year. Anything beyond this is classified as a different type of rhinitis; so for the purpose of simplicity, we will only discuss seasonal allergies.
The Basics of Seasonal Allergies
The term allergic rhinitis – what does that even mean? Well, let’s look at how The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology defines the topic:
If you have allergic rhinitis, your immune system mistakenly identifies a typically harmless substance as an intruder. This substance is called an allergen. The immune system responds to the allergen by releasing histamine and chemical mediators that typically cause symptoms in the nose, throat, eyes, ears, skin and roof of the mouth.https://www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/allergies/rhinitis
The most common offending substance is pollen carried by the wind. It’s necessary for plant reproduction but quite a nuisance for our population. Symptoms arise and you’ll easily find the yellow powder everywhere you look. It’s no wonder that seasonal allergies are so prevalent during these times of the year!
It also happens to be a phenomenon that many have to deal with. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 7.7% of the United States population (19.2 million individuals) was diagnosed with hay fever in 2018. It sure feels like more though, doesn’t it?
You may have experienced some of these already or know someone who has. The most common symptoms for seasonal allergies include, but are not limited to:
- Stuffy or runny nose (congestion)
- Itchy or watery eyes
- Itching in the roof of the mouth, throat, or nose
- Congestion of the ear (“clogged ears”)
- Postnasal drainage
- Dry cough
- Headache or migraine
- Shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing
All of these listed symptoms can range from mild to severe. Unfortunately, these can exacerbate symptoms of other conditions such as asthma. Individuals should consult a medical professional to prepare accordingly for situations that may result in contact with the offending allergen. Depending on how your system reacts to seasonal allergies, you should always have a plan!
Potential Options For Treatment
If you experience the previously listed symptoms during the spring, summer, and/or fall of the year, that is a sign you may be experiencing seasonal allergies. They generally are easier to observe when compared to different types of rhinitis. After all, it’s in the name! Whether or not you’re confident that you may be dealing with them, it’s in your best interest to seek a medical professional to be safe. With this information, what are your options moving forward?
To start off, try to avoid your allergens as much as you can. Limit any contact with them if and when possible. This can include limiting time outdoors (but don’t completely cut it out) and keeping windows shut, especially on a windy day. Now, this is not a reality for everyone, so do what you can to protect yourself. Be aware that certain conditions like asthma and certain actions such as smoking can impact your breathing and exacerbate the symptoms you experience. This can lead to asthma attacks (if applicable), shortness of breath, wheezing, etc.
In conjunction with those basic measures, multiple treatments are available to treat your symptoms and make your life easier. This includes a plethora of over-the-counter (OTC) decongestants and prescription medications. For the best information possible, contact your pharmacist or doctor for recommendations.
Further Testing For Allergies
Sometimes, these seasonal allergies may go above and beyond their normal boundaries and additional testing may be in your best interest. If that is the case, more options such as allergy testing and allergy shots (immunotherapy). Both can save you money and sanity in the long run!
The first option, allergy testing, is just as it sounds: you are tested for allergies. This can be done via skin or blood tests. The former involves testing multiple substances on your skin to see if a reaction occurs (results are almost immediate at times), while the latter is simply the prick of a needle (this is not always as accurate but is less taxing). We must be upfront and state that these alone do not completely determine if you are allergic to something. To ensure confidence and consistency, your complete medical history must be reviewed and cross-referenced. A patient deserves confidence!
The second option, allergy shots (also known as immunotherapy), involves gradually increasing injections of an allergen into your body over a pre-determined period of time. Although this may seem counterproductive at the sound of that, it is actually proven to be a powerful method in the fight against allergies. The key is to inject a small amount of said allergen to just provoke your immune system but not cause an allergic reaction. In this line of testing, the goal here is to train your body to build up a tolerance and lessen the impact of your symptoms (if not cause them to diminish entirely).
Moving Forward With Your Life
As with virtually every ailment you can think of, we are also available as a resource in combatting your seasonal allergies. Whether it is an examination to make a proper diagnosis, guidance on the best OTC drugs to use, prescriptions for allergy medications, conduction of further testing, or simply a soundboard to voice your medical concerns, we’ve got you covered. In order to identify allergens WE OFFER ALLERGY TESTING IN HOUSE AND PATIENTS SHOULD CALL US TO SCHEDULE TESTING.
If you decide that you would like to seek further testing (allergy testing and shots), please be aware that both options involve some preparation on our end. We encourage patients to contact us beforehand and schedule an appointment. In a more complicated case, we can make a referral to an allergist for further assistance. Whatever the case is, there are things we can do to help you and fight back against all types of allergies – including the seasonal ones.
That’s enough about this topic for today! Seasonal allergies may not seem that serious but all in all, they are certainly nothing to sneeze at. For more information, please visit our website at advancedinternalmedicinega.org or contact one of our three offices in Georgia.