With allergy season in full bloom, the American Academy of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery is offering a reminder of what you can do to cope with the pollen in the air, and how an ear, nose, and throat specialist can help.
This spring, pollen from blooming trees and plants will join other allergens in affecting over 45 million Americans, causing itching eyes, sneezing, nasal stuffiness, nasal congestion and drainage, and sometimes headache. This year, some areas are re porting record-high pollen counts, which are sure to impact the people breathing that yellow, dust-like allergen.
Some people may experience hearing changes, scratchy sore throats, hoarseness, and cough. In the most serious situations, allergies can lead to balance disturbances, swelling in face or throat tissues, skin irritations, and even respiratory problems and asthma.
However, just because you might be sensitive to pollen, it does not mean you have to avoid those spring flowers that are appearing on every corner; colorful or fragrant flowering plants rarely cause allergy because their pollens are too heavy to be airborne.
Who has the best training to help you cope with allergies? Your otolaryngologist.
Otolaryngologists (known commonly as ear, nose, and throat doctors) have extensive training in the diagnosis, testing, and treatment of allergies and are experts with sinus problems or other complications from nasal allergy.
The only "cure" available for inhalant allergy is the administration of small doses of the offending substance that build up protective antibodies to those specific allergens (including pollen). Injection and sublingual therapy are common ways to administer this relief.
A number of medications are useful in the treatment of allergy including antihistamines, nasal decongestant sprays, steroid sprays, and saline sprays. The medical management of allergy also includes counseling in proper environmental control.
Tips for Controlling Your Allergen Environment:
Wear a pollen mask when mowing grass or house cleaning (most drugstores sell them).
Change the air filters monthly in heating and air conditioning systems, and/or install an air purifier.
Keep windows and doors closed during heavy pollen seasons.
Rid your home of indoor plants and other sources of mildew.
Use antihistamine and decongestants as necessary and as tolerated.
Sleep with a brick or two placed under bedposts at the head of the bed to help relieve nasal congestion.
Observe general good health practices; exercise daily, stop smoking, avoid air pollutants, eat a balanced diet, and supplement your diet with vitamins, especially C.