The latest news from our blog, written by our guest author Andrew Conboy, PA-C
As spring approaches, many of us will dread the sneezing, itchy eyes, itchy nose, and coughing associated with our seasonal allergies.
Allergic rhinitis, also known as seasonal allergies, hay fever, or allergic rhinosinusitis (inflammation of the nose and sinuses both) affects many of us. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, the number of people affected varies between 10-30% in the U.S. and other industrialized countries. This malady is characterized by runny nose, sneezing and nasal itching. However, many people also experience post-nasal drip, coughing, fatigue, and irritability. In children additional physical signs may include darkening under the eyes-often referred to as “allergic shiners”, accentuated folds or lines under the eyes, or a crease across the nose from repeatedly pushing the tip of the nose up with the hand.
Symptoms may be present on a “seasonal” basis in which symptoms are only present during a particular time of year, or they may be “perennial” where symptoms are caused by allergens that are present throughout the year. The seasonal allergies are generally caused by outdoor allergens- pollens from plants we are all familiar with- pine, juniper, Black-Eyed Susan, etc. Whereas, the perennial allergies are associated with indoor allergens such as dust mites, animal dander, cockroaches, and mold spores. Don’t be alarmed if your allergic rhinitis is accompanied by several other conditions. One example is asthma, which highly associated with allergic rhinitis. It is estimated that up to 50% of patients with asthma will also have allergic rhinitis.
Allergic conjunctivitis is a very common condition. Up to 60% of people who suffer from allergic rhinitis will also deal with symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis. Not to be confused with bacterial conjunctivitis (pink eye), which generally impacts one eye, symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis include itching, tearing, and burning of both eyes, as well as sensitivity to light.
Sinus infections may also occur. The nasal inflammation caused by allergic rhinitis can cause obstruction of the sinus openings. This can predispose you to a bacterial sinus infection. Symptoms of a bacterial sinus infection may include nasal congestion, cough, fever, facial pain and dental pain.
Eczema in children generally presents as itchy, red patches found on the face, arms, legs, or trunk. Whereas in adults, it usually appears as thickened areas of skin on flexural areas on the neck, fold of elbow, or the back of the knee. Although allergens may not be the sole cause of eczema, they certainly can contribute to it.
What can you do to ease the symptoms of seasonal allergies? Fortunately, there are good over-the-counter and prescription treatment options for allergic rhinitis and the associated symptoms. These treatment options won’t cure your seasonal allergies, but focus on decreasing the inflammation and congestion which causes your discomfort. Non-prescription options include nasal rinses, bedside humidifier, antihistamines, nasal steroid sprays, and expectorants.
Allergy testing may be available to pinpoint your individual allergens if treatment offers inadequate control. Once allergy testing is performed, immunotherapy is an additional treatment that can be considered. This treatment plan provides your body with gradually increasing doses of the specific allergens that affect you. Over time, your body may improve its tolerance to these allergens. This immunotherapy can be performed with a series of “allergy shots” or sublingual (under the tongue) drops.
With the change of the seasons, the increased prevalence of allergic rhinitis is inevitable. However, your suffering from seasonal allergies does not have to be. Keep the above treatment options in mind to ease your symptoms or visit your local family practice to discuss individualized options.
Andrew Conboy, PA-C
East Flagstaff Family Medicine