Forty-five million Americans suffer from allergies, and the numbers are increasing. No matter the severity of symptoms, it’s important to know what is causing allergies and your options for treatment. Dr. Neelesh Mehendale, ENT physician on the Centennial Medical Center staff, provides some background on what might be causing your allergy symptoms and the best way to prevent sneezing your way through the spring:
Allergy symptoms appear when chemical mediators, such as histamine, are released into the bloodstream. These chemicals are byproducts of the body’s antibodies fighting off allergens. Any substance that triggers an allergic reaction can be an allergen, but some substances are more prone to generate an allergic response in humans. Common allergens include airborne pollens, food, mold, dust, feathers, animal dander, chemicals and environmental pollutants.
Common symptoms of allergies include itchy eyes, sneezing, nasal stuffiness, nasal congestion and drainage and headaches. Some less common symptoms include skin irritation, respiratory problems and asthma. Generally, inhaled allergens will cause respiratory symptoms, and ingested allergies will produce skin and/or gastrointestinal symptoms.
Some allergens that are always present, like dust mites, pet dander, mold, food and household chemicals, can cause allergy sufferers to experience symptoms year-round. Other allergens, such as ragweed, grasses and tree pollens, occur seasonally and allow sufferers a break in the off-season.
Medications like antihistamines and nasal decongestant spray, steroid spray and saline spray are useful in treating allergy systems. If allergy symptoms don’t improve with medications or the medication side effects are too severe, allergy shots, or immunotherapy, may be a good option. The goal of these shots is to desensitize the body to specific allergens and decrease or eliminate the need for medications over a period of three to five years.
There are many ways that you can limit your exposure to allergens by taking steps to control your environment including:
Plus, it’s always good to observe good general health practices by exercising daily, not smoking and eating a balanced diet supplemented with vitamins, especially vitamin C.