As we endure the spring season, there are many common allergens indigenous to northern Arizona that evolve throughout the year. Those allergy sufferers may complain of itchy, watery eyes; stuffy or runny nose; sinus pressure; ear congestion and scratchy throat. And for those with asthma, the complaints may commonly include tight chest, difficulty breathing, cough, wheezing and shortness of breath, sometimes severe.
The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America estimates that there are 50 million of us who have allergies. Allergic conditions are the sixth leading cause of chronic illness in the U.S. The longer you are here, the more likely you will be to acquire allergies with repeated exposures season after season. Although common allergens include seasonal pollens, there are also a host of year round irritants including dust mites and animal dander that can be addressed with some proactive awareness and avoidance. This time of year from February through the end of spring, the juniper and cedar trees pollens are in abundance in northern Arizona. These can be an overwhelming source of irritants, some of the most significant of common allergens to many.
Common over-the-counter medicines can be used for allergy treatment. Antihistamines reduce the histamine reaction responsible for sneezing, itching, runny nose and hives. This medicine is the foundation of allergy management, including seasonal and indoor allergies. Nasal corticosteroids are nose sprays that reduce swelling and irritation producing sinus pressure, stuffy, runny and itchy nose. Decongestants are also commonly used. As their action is to dry congestion, it may sometimes worsen symptoms in our dry climate of the southwest. Many medicines are “all-in-one” which have additional combined drugs. Please read these ingredients, as there may be unnecessary and possible contraindicated components for some, including aspirin and other NSAIDs. As well, there may be other medications included for cough, congestion and other symptoms of upper respiratory infections that may not be appropriated for those who suffer from environmental allergies.
There are additional levels of prescription intervention including mast cell stabilizers, leukotriene inhibitors, and oral steroids to name a few. Possibly allergy testing and hyposensitization treatment may be needed if symptoms are not controlled with the previously mentioned medications. With early intervention and preventive treatment, many of these complaints may be minimized. Reducing the health risk of allergy and its association with asthma can markedly improve both the financial and personal cost of uncontrolled disease. If you have such symptoms, a visit to your primary care provider may be appropriate to evaluate, discuss and initiate the appropriate care for your complaints. For these health problems, as with many others, early intervention is optimal to best outcome.
Bradford Croft, DO
East Flagstaff Family Medicine