Hundreds of thousands of Utahns suffer from hay fever, also referred to as nasal allergies. An ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist can help determine what pollens are causing your discomfort. The specialist can also design a treatment plan that will help make life more enjoyable.
Why Does the Body Develop Allergies?
Allergy symptoms appear when the immune system reacts to an allergen that has entered the body as if it were an unwelcome invader. 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, your immune system quickly recognizes it; this causes a series of reactions. These reactions often involve blood vessel dilation, and production of histamine. Histamine produces common allergy symptoms such as itchy and watery eyes, sneezing, stuffy/runny nose, scratchy throat, and hives.
What Are Common Allergens?
Many common substances can be allergens. Pollens, food, mold, dust, feathers, animal dander, and airborne pollutants commonly cause many Utahns to suffer allergic reactions.
Early springtime allergic rhinitis is most often caused by tree pollen. Flowering plants rarely cause allergy symptoms. Late spring early summer brings grass pollen. Then late summer until we get a good hard frost we have weed pollen.
All year we have household allergens that can be irritating. These include dust mites, pet dander, and molds. Symptoms caused by these allergens often worsen in the winter when the house is closed up, due to poor air ventilation.
Molds also cause allergy problems. Molds are present all year long and grow both 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.
How Can Allergies Be Managed?
Allergies often cause a negative effect on quality of life including you missed days of work, decreased work efficiency, and poor school performance. Considering the millions of dollars spent on medication for allergies and the cost of lost work productivity, allergies cannot be considered a minor problem.
For some, symptoms may be seasonal; for others allergies symptoms are year-round. Symptom control is most successful when multiple approaches are used together to manage the allergy. They may include reducing exposure to allergens, medications (antihistamines, steroid nasal sprays, and decongestants), and allergy shots or drops.
When Should You Consult a Doctor?
If your allergy symptoms are not well controlled with over-the-counter medications, it’s time to see your doctor. Your doctor will gather a detailed history and complete a thorough examination of the ears, nose, throat, and head. The doctor will also evaluate the sinuses to determine if infection or structural problems (deviated septum, polyps) are causing the symptoms.
In addition, your doctor may suggest allergy testing to find the specific allergen that is causing discomfort. In some cases subcutaneous immunotherapy (allergy shots) or sublingual immunotherapy (allergy drops under the tongue) may be used.
Tips for Reducing the Exposure to Common Allergens
- Wear a dust mask when mowing the lawn or cleaning the house.
- Change your air filters regularly in heating and air conditioning systems.
- Keep windows and doors closed during heavy pollen seasons.
- Rid your home of sources of mold and mildew.
- If you have a pet, ask your ENT for suggestions to allow you to enjoy your pet while also enjoying a life free of allergies.
- Remove carpet from bedrooms.
- Use over-the-counter antihistamines and decongestants as needed and as tolerated.
- Discuss hay fever and allergy symptoms with a physician when experiencing an allergic reaction.
To schedule an appointment with an Ogden Clinic Allergy Specialist, please click here or call (801) 475-3000.