Dallas Sinus Center can diagnose the causes of nasal allergies and offer a treatment and prevention plan.
Millions of Americans suffer from nasal allergies, commonly known as hay fever. Often fragrant flowers are blamed for the uncomfortable symptoms, yet they are rarely the cause; their pollens are too heavy to be airborne. The doctors at the Dallas Sinus Center can help determine the substances causing your discomfort and develop a management plan that will help make life more enjoyable.
Insight into Causes, Treatment and Prevention
Allergy symptoms appear when the immune system reacts to an unwelcome allergic substance that has entered the body. The immune system will produce special antibodies capable of recognizing the same allergic substance if it enters the body at a later time. When an allergen reenters the body, the immune system rapidly recognizes it, causing a series of reactions. These reactions often involve tissue destruction, blood vessel dilation, and production of many inflammatory substances including histamine. Histamine produces common allergy symptoms such as itchy, watery eyes, nasal and sinus congestion, headaches, sneezing, scratchy throat, hives and shortness of breath. Less common symptoms include balance disturbances, skin irritations such as eczema, and even respiratory problems like asthma.
Why does the body develop allergies?
Many common substances can be allergens. Pollens, food, mold, dust, feathers, animal dander, chemicals, drugs such as penicillin, and environmental pollutants commonly cause many to suffer allergic reactions.
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 hay fever is most often caused by pollens of trees such as elm, maple, birch, poplar, beech, ash, oak, walnut, sycamore, cypress, hickory, pecan, cottonwood, and alder. Colorful or fragrant flowering plants rarely cause allergy symptoms because their pollens are too heavy to be airborne.
Certain allergens are present all year long. These include house dust, pet danders, some foods and chemicals. Symptoms from these are frequently worse in the winter when the house is closed up and where there is poor ventilation.
Mold spores can also cause allergy problems. Molds are present all year long, and grow outdoors and indoors. Dead leaves and farm areas are common sources for outdoor 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.
What allergens should be avoided?
Allergies are rarely life threatening, but often cause lost work days, decreased work efficiency, poor school performance, and have a negative effect on the quality of life. Considering the millions spent on anti-allergy medications and the cost of lost work time, allergies cannot be considered a minor problem.
How can allergies be managed?
For some allergy sufferers, symptoms may be seasonal, but for others they are a year-round discomfort. Allergy symptom control is most successful when multiple management approaches are used simultaneously. They may include minimizing exposure to allergens, desensitization with allergy shots, and medications.
If used properly, medications including antihistamines, nasal decongestant sprays, steroid sprays, saline sprays, and cortisone-type preparations can be helpful. Even over-the-counter drugs can be beneficial, but some may cause drowsiness.
The ENT (ear, nose and throat) specialists at the Dallas Sinus Center can evaluate allergy problems and recommend treatment. Aside from gathering a detailed history and completing a thorough examination of the ears, nose, throat, head, and neck, the doctor will offer advice on proper environmental control and evaluate the sinuses to determine if infection or structural abnormality (deviated septum, polyps) is contributing to the symptoms. In addition, the doctor may advise testing to determine the specific allergen that is causing discomfort. In some cases immunotherapy or allergy shots may be recommended. Immunotherapy is a unique treatment because it induces the buildup of protective antibodies to specific allergens.
When should a doctor be consulted?
Allergy shots and/or allergy drops placed under the tongue are a specific and successful treatment method. Skin tests and sometimes blood tests are used to make up vials of allergy-inducing substances specific to an individual patients profile. The physician determines the best concentration for the first treatment. Once begun, these treatments form blocking antibodies in the patients blood stream that interfere with the allergic reaction. Injections are typically given for a period of three to five years.
Tips for reducing the exposure to common allergens:
- Wear a pollen mask when mowing grass or house cleaning (most drugstores sell them).
- Change the air filters regularly in heating and air conditioning systems, and/or install an air purifier.
- Keep windows and doors closed during heavy pollen seasons.
- Rid the home of sources of mildew.
- Don’t allow dander-producing animals (i.e., cats, dogs, etc.) into the home and bedroom.
- Change feather pillows, woolen blankets, and woolen clothing to cotton or synthetic materials.
- Enclose mattress, box springs, and pillows in plastic barrier cloth.
- Use antihistamines and decongestants as necessary and as tolerated.
- Sleep with the head of the bed tilted upward. Elevating the head of the bed helps relieve nasal congestion.
- Observe general good health practices: exercise daily, do not smoke, avoid air pollutants, eat a balanced diet, and supplement diet with vitamins, especially C.
- Use a humidifier in the winter. Be sure to clean the humidifier regularly to avoid mold buildup.
- Discuss hay fever and allergy symptoms with a physician when experiencing an allergic reaction.