Allergy Testing and Treatment- Allergic Rhinitis

Allergy Testing and Treatment- Allergic Rhinitis

Nasal Allergies

Millions of Americans suffer from allergic rhinitis (commonly known as nasal allergies or hay fever). Symptoms appear when the immune system reacts to a substance that has entered the body as a harmful pathogen. The immune system produces special antibodies to attack the substance if it enters the body again.

These antibodies can cause tissue destruction, blood vessel dilation and the production of many inflammatory substances including histamine. Histamine produces common allergy symptoms such as:

  • Itchy, watery, red eyes
  • Nasal and sinus congestion
  • Headaches
  • Sneezing
  • Scratchy throat
  • Hives
  • Shortness of breath

Chronic sinus and ear infections and even respiratory problems like asthma may result from allergic rhinitis. Other less common symptoms are balance disturbances and skin irritations such as eczema.

What allergens should be avoided?

Many common substances can be allergens, including:

  • Pollens
  • Food
  • Mold
  • Dust
  • Feathers
  • Animal dander
  • Chemicals
  • Drugs such as penicillin
  • Environmental pollutants

Pollens

One of the most significant causes of allergic rhinitis in the United States is ragweed. It begins pollinating in late August and continues until the first frost. Late springtime pollens come from the grasses, i.e., timothy, orchard, red top, sweet vernal, Bermuda, Johnson, and some bluegrasses. Early springtime allergies are most often caused by tree pollens such as cottonwood, elm, maple, aspen, poplar, beech, ash, oak, walnut, sycamore, cypress, hickory, Russian olive, and alder. Colorful or fragrant flowering plants rarely cause allergy symptoms because their pollens are too heavy to be airborne.

Household allergens

Certain allergens such as house dust, pet dander and certain foods and chemicals are present all year long. Symptoms from these are frequently worse in the winter, when houses are closed up and have little ventilation.

Mold

Molds are present all year long and can grow outside and indoors. Dead leaves and farm areas are common sources for outside molds. Indoor plants, old books, bathrooms, and damp areas are common sources of indoor mold growth. Mold is also common in foods such as cheese and fermented beverages.

How are allergies treated?

Allergies are rarely life threatening but can often have a negative effect on the quality of life. Considering the millions of dollars spent on anti-allergy medications and the cost of lost work time, allergies cannot be considered a minor problem.

Allergy symptoms may appear seasonally or year-round. They are best controlled by using multiple management approaches. These may include:

  • Minimizing exposure to allergens
  • Allergy shots
  • Sublingual drops
  • Antihistamines
  • Nasal decongestant sprays
  • Steroid sprays
  • Saline sprays
  • Cortisone-type

Over-the-counter drugs can help. However, be aware that some may cause drowsiness.

Allergy Symptom Management Techniques

Avoidance/Environmental Control

Pollen:

  • Stay indoors during peak allergy season.
  • Keep windows closed and use air conditioning if possible.
  • Use HEPA air filters/vacuum cleaners.
  • Wear a dust mask if working outdoors.

 

Mold:

  • Thoroughly clean all damp areas of the home with fungicidal cleaner.
  • Avoid having indoor plants, which can harbor mold in the soil.
  • Discard any moldy food.

 

Dust Mites:

  • Wash bed sheets at least weekly in hot water > 140o F.
  • Cover pillows, mattress and box springs with hypoallergenic dust mite barriers.
  • Keep humidity low (<50%).
  • Remove dust catchers i.e. drapes, excess pillows, etc.
  • Use HEPA air filters.
  • Vacuum carpets with a HEPA filter.

 

Animal Dander:

  • Keep pets out of the bedroom.
  • Wash pet at least once per week.
  • Wash hands after handling.
  • Use HEPA air filters.
  • Vacuum carpets HEPA filter.

 

Cockroaches:

  • Dispose of food debris.
  • Use insecticides or exterminator.
  • Caulk cracks and crevices in house.

 

Medications

In addition to avoidance measures, a wide array of medications can help control allergy symptoms. If over-the-counter medications are not effective, your doctor may recommend prescription medications. The mainstays of allergy medication therapy are nasal steroid sprays and oral/nasal antihistamines. New evidence shows that a combination of topical medications may provide greater improvement in symptom control. Nasal steroid sprays work by decreasing inflammation in the nose but the effect is not apparent immediately. They may take one to two weeks before improvements are apparent. Other medications include leukotriene inhibitors and anticholinergic nasal sprays. Your doctor will work with you to tailor your medical therapy to your specific symptoms.

Immunotherapy

Allergy shots or immunotherapy can also help control allergy symptoms when avoidance measures and medications provide incomplete relief. Immunotherapy is a prophylactic, therapeutic treatment that may decrease the need for allergy medications. One method of immunotherapy called sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT) involves placing drops of an allergen under the tongue. A consultation with an otolaryngic allergist will determine if you are a good candidate for immunotherapy.

For more information on SWIENT’s allergy testing and treatment options, contact us.