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Acadiana Lifestyle

Health Notes - Summer Allergies

06/04/2013 09:03AM ● By Aimee Cormier


By Ellen S. Mullen M.D.

It’s summer! Flowers are blooming, the weather is ideal and everyone is ready to spruce up their yards.  However summer brings with it allergies. Allergic rhinitis or hayfever is an overreaction of your histamine system to allergens.  Allergic rhinitis consists of clear runny nose, sneezing, sinus congestion, and oftentimes cough. Symptoms of itching, sore throat and headache may also be present.  Allergic rhinitis often lasts longer than a cold and worsens with more exposure to the allergen.

What can be done about allergies? Simple treatments such as nasal/sinus irrigation with normal saline can often be helpful to wash out the allergens.  Of course avoiding the irritant is also helpful. Wearing a mask while doing yard work may be inconvenient but can reduce symptoms. Animals carry many allergens on their fur. Therefore limiting the amount of exposure to a pet may be helpful. Not having pets sleep in your room does significantly reduce the amount of time you are exposed to allergens and may make a difference in allergy symptoms.

Most often the diagnosis of allergies is based on history and symptoms. In more severe cases allergy skin tests can be done.  This is done by a physician introducing small amounts of common allergens onto the skin and monitoring the reaction. Blood tests can also be done. These tests will guide you and your doctor to treating your allergies.

What is the medical treatment of allergies? The most common treatment is antihistamines. Most of these can now be bought over the counter including Claritin, Allegra,  Zyrtec, and Benadryl just to name a few. Decongestants are also available either over the counter or behind the pharmacy counter and can be helpful in relieving the symptoms of congestion. These include such meds as Pseudofed and Afrin. These meds should not be used by those with high blood pressure and not for prolonged periods of time. Depending on your symptoms and your age your doctor may want to treat with a prescription medication. Allergy eye drops can be helpful for watery, itchy eyes. Singulair is another prescription medication that may be used in allergic rhinitis. If you are suffering from allergies and over the counter medications are not helping see your doctor and get help before your symptoms worsen.

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