By: Laura Faulkner, RN ENT
Did you know 60 Million People in the US suffer from allergies? In fact, allergies are the leading cause of chronic illness in the United States costing over $18 billion annually. Allergic disease has a significant impact on quality of life causing sneezing, wheezing, nasal congestion, coughing, itchy watery eyes, hives, fatigue and irritability. In other words, they make you miserable!
Allergies are caused by your immune systems overreaction to natural substances in the environment. If you suffer from allergies your immune system reacts to these substances the same way it reacts to something harmful like bacteria. For non-allergy suffers think of how you feel when you have an upper respiratory infection and then consider this going on for months at a time!
How can you treat allergy symptoms if you are one of the 60 million who are affected? Generally we look at one of three ways:
- Medications like antihistamines such as Loratidine, Allegra, Zyrtec or Benadryl as well as nasal sprays such as Rhinocort, Nasonex or Flonase. All of these are available over the counter and can help with symptom relief.
- Environmental controls. If you know what is triggering your allergic response you can concentrate on avoidance in your environment. For example if you always sneeze around a cat it’s best to avoid them! This will work well over things you have control of such as cats, dogs or dust mites. Unfortunately if you know you always have symptoms in the spring time it’s likely to be caused by tree pollen which can be difficult to avoid!
- Immunotherapy which involves injecting you with small amounts of the substances you are allergic to. This stimulates your body to building antibodies which block the immune response.
- Immunotherapy can improve symptoms in about 85% of the patients treated.
At Memorial Medical Center’s ENT clinic we can help test and treat your allergies. Testing is performed by both skin pricks (the skin is pricked with a needle where a drip of allergen has already been placed) and intradermal (consists of injecting small amounts of an allergen into the superficial layers of the skin). Once your allergens have been identified you will meet with the physician to determine the best way to treat your allergies.
Don’t suffer through the upcoming pollen season, which will be here sooner than you think. In fact, tree pollen will be detected in the environment long before we see the buds coming out! Call 715-682-6010 to schedule an appointment for evaluation.
Lynn Faulkner is a registered nurse focusing on allergy treatment at the ENT Clinic of Memorial Medical Center seeing patients in both Ashland and Hayward.