Spring is the time of year when many of us experience “seasonal allergic rhinitis,” also known as “hay fever.” Allergic rhinitis can begin at any age and can present during specific seasons or year-round in some patients. People at higher risk of having this condition include those with asthma or eczema or those with a family history of asthma or rhinitis.
According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, more than 50 million Americans currently live with seasonal nasal allergies. This is a common condition in which the nasal passages become inflamed by “allergens” such as dust, pet dander, mold spores or pollen. Allergies develop when the immune system becomes “hypersensitive” or overreacts to these allergens. This condition can cause discomfort in the form of sneezing, stuffy or runny nose, watery eyes, scratchy throat and itching around the eyes, nose or mouth.
I tell all my patients experiencing seasonal allergic rhinitis that life doesn’t need to be this way. An ear, nose and throat specialist or an allergy specialist can offer a number of treatment options, depending on the individual patient and the severity of symptoms. They are likely to recommend one or a combination of the following treatments:
- Allergen Avoidance – The best treatment for allergies is avoiding what makes you allergic. An allergy test is a very common method for a physician to detect what you are allergic to by testing your skin or taking a sample of blood. The key is to eliminate the presence of the allergens in the air that you breathe. A specialist can show you how to achieve this in multiple ways.
- Medication – Medication is the next best step to block the symptoms of allergic reactions. Although they do not cure allergies, they are very effective in controlling your body’s response to the allergen. Medications may include anti-histamine pills or nasal steroid sprays and many are available over the counter.
- Immunotherapy – Immunotherapy is the practice of supplying allergy injections or sublingual therapy (drops under the tongue) to control or eliminate allergies in severely allergic people. A tolerance is built up in the body by a slow and graduated delivery of small doses of the substance to which the patient is allergic. This process is the only method available to cure allergies and may take 3 to 5 years to complete.
- Surgery – Allergies cannot be cured by surgery but many patients with allergies may have conditions that make their allergy symptoms worse or are the end result of severe allergies. These surgically correctable conditions include deviated septum, enlarged nasal turbinates, nasal polyps or chronic sinusitis. An ear, nose and throat specialist is specially trained to perform these minimally invasive procedures.