Springtime and summer are prime allergy seasons which can mean major discomfort for millions of allergy sufferers.
The triggers or allergens most common are:
- Pollen from trees, grass or weeds
- Dust mites
- Insects droppings
- Mold spores (indoor or outdoor)
- Pet dander
SymptomsSymptoms of allergic rhinitis occur in two phases, early and late.
Early Phase Symptoms. The early phase occurs within minutes of exposure to the allergens and includes:
- Runny nose
- Frequent or repetitive sneezing
- Itching in the nose, eyes, throat, or roof of the mouth
- Late-Phase Symptoms. The late phase occurs 4 to 8 hours later and may include one or more of these symptoms:
- Nasal congestion and possibly plugged ears. Children may push their nose upward with the palm of their hand or twitch their nose rabbit-like to clear the obstruction.
- Mental changes can include irritability, a slight decrease in attention span, worsened memory, and slower thinking.
- Other common physical symptoms include a decreased sense of smell, plugged ears, sinus headache, postnasal drip or some combination. In severe allergies, dark circles may develop under the eye. The lower eyelid may be puffy and lined with creases
TreatmentFor mild allergic rhinitis, reducing exposure to allergensand a nasal wash can be helpful for removing mucus from the nose. You can purchase a saline solution at a drug store or made one at home (one cup of warm water, half teaspoon salt, pinch of baking soda). Over-the-counter saline nasal sprays that contain benzalkonium chloride as a preservative may actually worsen symptoms and infection Histamine is one of the chemicals released when antibodies overreact to allergens. It is the cause of many symptoms of allergic rhinitis. Anti histamines can help relieve:
- Itching, sneezing, and nasal discharge
- Other allergy symptoms unrelated to rhinitis, including hives and some rashes
- Nasal congestion, for some of the newer antihistamines, such as cetirizine (Zyrtec) and desloratadine (Clarinex)
If possible, patients should take antihistamines before an anticipated allergy attack. Many antihistamines are available. They include short-acting and long-acting forms and are available as tablets, nasal-inhalers, eye drops, and syrups. Antihistamines are generally categorized as first- and second-generation. First-generation antihistamines may cause more side effects than newer second-generation ones.
A number of drugs are available for reducing the inflammatory response in allergies. These drugs can help prevent an allergy attack from occurring. Nasal-spray corticosteroids (commonly called steroids) are considered the most effective drugs for treating severe allergic rhinitis. Corticosteroids suppress important stress and other hormones in a region of the brain called the HPA axis. The suppression of these hormones blocks the inflammatory response that triggers an allergic attack. Steroids do not relieve symptoms immediately. It may take several hours before their effects are felt. Nasal spray steroids benefits include:
- Reducing inflammation and mucus production.
- Improving night sleep and daytime alertness in patients with perennial allergic rhinitis.
- Treating polyps in the nasal passages
Immunotherapy (commonly referred to as "allergy shots") is a highly effective treatment for patients with allergies. It is based on the premise that people who receive injections of a specific allergen will lose sensitivity to it. The most common allergens for which shots are given are house dust, cat dander, grass pollen, and mold.
Immunotherapy benefits include:
- Targeting the specific allergen.
- Reducing sensitivity in airways in the lungs as well as in the upper airways.
- Preventing the development of new allergies in children.
- Reducing asthma symptoms and the use of asthma medications in patients with known allergies.
Other Alternative treatments include humidifiers to decrease moisture in the air in which mold thrive, air purifiers. Our Naturopath Dr Claire also has a non-allopathic approach to follow should you desire to try a different approach.
In addition, both acupuncture and chiropractic manipulations have been put forth as alternative therapies for allergies. There are no reliable studies to back that up, but again, both are fairly safe to try.