By Richard Peatman, Pharm.D., Meadow Vista Pharmacy
Runny nose, nasal congestion, itchy eyes, sneezing, clogged sinuses and ears, fatigue and trouble breathing. Yes, it's allergy season for 1 in 5 Americans. Allergies occur throughout the year, but springtime is the worst period for most sufferers. The medical term for this condition is called allergic rhinitis and, while it isn't life threatening, it costs billions of dollars each year in treatment and time off work. All this suffering is caused by molds, pollen or a few proteins from mites or animal dander. These allergens in the air react with the immunoglobulin (IgE) in a person's blood stream, resulting in the symptoms of “spring fever”.
In some people, the allergic process can lead to more serious complications such as asthma, sinus infections and ear infections. For those who are prone to these conditions, it is especially important to seek treatment from your medical provider. Available OTC products include antihistamines, decongestants, nasal rinses, steroid and cromolyn spray and numerous alternative medical therapies. Your doctor can help you discover the causes of your allergies and work with you on avoiding things that trigger attacks both inside and outside the home. You may need to be referred to an allergist for testing and desensitization therapy.
When treating allergies, remember that it is a 24-hour process. Medicine must be taken on a daily basis to thoroughly control the symptoms. Gaps in treatment allow the allergens to start their work all over again. For those who experience more serious complications of allergies, such as infections or asthma, consistent and aggressive treatment offers the best hope for preventing or minimizing the disease.
New therapies are now available from your medical provider and offer an alternative to desensitization shots. One example is Oralair®, a tablet containing several pollen types. When taken regularly, a person will develop tolerance to these pollens and greatly reduce their allergy symptoms. Oral and injectable immunotherapy offers a promising approach to treatment and avoids the pain and inconvenience of allergy shots. Remember, early and regular treatment is the best approach to controlling allergy symptoms.
For more information on how you can treat your allergies, go to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America at www.aafa.org.