More Pollen. More Problems.

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Pollen, from trees, grass, and weeds contain soluble allergens which can dissolve through the mucosa linings of the respiratory system and cause common allergy symptoms, like rhinitis, i.e. a runny, itchy, sneezy nose!

This is MISERABLE for those who suffer from pollen allergies. The best way to help shots and other allergy medicine is to avoid your exposure! While medication might be necessary, avoidance can lessen the severity and frequency of your symptoms.

Here are some tips on how to avoid pollen exposure: 

  1. Wash your hair before bed after a day spent outdoors
  2. Dont hang clothing and bedding out to dry
  3. Have someone cut your grass – (see any friendly neighbors?)
  4. Keep your car window closed while driving
  5. Close home windows and turn on the AC
  6. Stay indoors between 5am-10am when airborne count is highest or on especially dry, windy days.

(As seen in Harvard Health Report)

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Resources for People with Allergies

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Millions of Americans suffer from allergies, whether they experience seasonal discomfort or have to avoid certain foods, allergy sufferers can oftentimes feel frustrated about their condition. Thankfully, there are many great resources for those dealing with allergies, simply a click away.

The makers of Zyrtec (this is not an endorsement of a product, rather a mention of a great resource) provide an allergy forecasting tool wherein you can enter your zip code to determine your town’s short-term allergy forecast. This clever site will also warn you about the key allergens in the environment for the time period entered.

WebMd.com offers many resources for allergy sufferers to include a Seasonal Allergy Map, a list of 10 Common Allergy Triggers and a comprehensive Allergies Health Center which includes allergy definitions, treatments and community boards which allow families dealing with food allergies to communicate and share their own tips and experiences with one another.

The Mayo Clinic offers a great article about lifestyle changes and home remedies to combat allergies and The Food Allergy Research and Education website offers a number of resources to parents, child care providers, schools and restaurants.

Of course, if you suspect that yourself or a family member may be suffering from an allergy, we welcome you to contact our office to schedule an appointment. Dr. Bernstein is an area expert in allergies and asthma and was the Capital Newspaper Readers Choice Awards Finalist for Best Allergist in 2013 and 2014. You can make an appointment by calling 410-224-5558.

Itchy, Runny Nose? Watery Eyes? Keep Reading.

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Many of you have experienced these symptoms: Itchy, runny nose. Sneezing and watery eyes. Are you suffering from Allergic Rhinitis? How is Allergic Rhinitis diagnosed? And how is it treated? I have created a handout, available to my patients, entitled, “Understanding Allergic Rhinitis”. It has been published in its entirety below for your reference.

Allergic Rhinitis refers to a group of symptoms that affect the nose. Allergy signs and symptoms include: itchy nose, eyes or throat, runny nose, sneezing, watery eyes, cough, clogged ears, headache, dark circles and/or puffiness under the eyes and fatigue. Other symptoms associated with Allergic Rhinitis include impaired sleep, increased irritability and recurrent sore throat. It is estimated that Allergic Rhinitis affects 40-50 million people a year. Allergic Rhinitis can be a trigger for asthma and predisposes patients to chronic sinus infections or ear infections. Allergic Rhinitis is the fifth most costly condition in the United States, trailing only hypertension, heart disease, mental illness and arthritis.

Diagnosis

Symptoms of Allergic Rhinitis are caused when an allergen you are allergic to is inhaled. This causes an inflammatory response, the release of histamine, and the symptoms outlined above. Allergic Rhinitis can be seasonal due to spring and fall pollens, or year-long due to dust mites, animal dander, cockroaches or mold. Non-Allergic Rhinitis can mimic Allergic Rhinitis, but it is caused by irritants such as smoke, air pollution, exhaust fumes, fragrances, paint fumes, and the like. A diagnosis is made on the basis of patient history, a physical exam and testing. Skin testing is the most common method of allergy testing. If for some reason the patient cannot get skin testing, a blood test known as IgE Rast can also be done. Other tests that can be helpful include a Complete Blood Count (CBC) with differential, to assess the serum-eosinophil cationic protein level (S-ECP). The serum-eosinophil cationic protein level (S-ECP) has been promoted as a biomarker of asthma that reflects the degree of bronchial eosinophilic inflammation.

Treatment

Lifestyle and environmental controls are the cornerstones of treatment. Identifying the proper triggers is helpful in outlining the proper treatment strategy.

Pollens: Keep windows closed and use air conditioning in the summer. Don’t hang clothing outdoors. Pollen may cling to towels and sheets, worsening symptoms. Usually allergy symptoms are worse between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m. You may want to consider wearing a pollen mask (NIOSH 95 filter rating) while working outdoors.

Mold: Keep water away from the house; use a dehumidifier to keep household humidity around 40%.

Dust Mites: Use dust mite covers, minimize exposure to carpets and heavy drapes, and minimize exposure to stuffed animals. Keep household humidity low, as outlined above.

Irritants: Avoid exposure.

Medications

Saline Irrigation: Saline irrigation can be helpful in combination with medications, or alone, if symptoms are mild. We recommend using a ceramic Neti Pot, as plastic containers are a wonderful surface for growing layers of bacteria and biofilms. We suggest combining 1/4 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda with 4-8 ounces of distilled water. Gentle irrigation improves mucociliary clearance which helps prevent infection.

Nasal Steroids: Nasal corticosteroids are the most effective treatment for Allergic Rhinitis. They work best when used continuously, as directed by your physician. When the patient is asymptomatic, dosages can be reduced. Nasal steroids are considered very safe. If symptoms are strictly seasonal, using nasal steroids on an intermittent basis may be recommended.

Antihistamines: Antihistamines can be taken by mouth, and are generally supplied without a prescription. Some antihistamines can cause drowsiness and impair one’s ability to operate machinery or drive a motor vehicle. Antihistamine nasal sprays can also be effective in the treatment of allergies.

Decongestants: Occasionally, decongestants may be helpful in reducing symptoms such as nasal stuffiness. However, decongestants can also exacerbate hypertension or cause heart palpitations. Nasal decongestants should not be used for more than 3 consecutive days.

Leukotriene Inhibitors: These medications are generally recommended for patients with nasal polyps. Examples are Singulair and Zyflo.

Allergic Rhinitis can cause symptoms independently, or can be a precipitating cause for other diseases such as asthma or vocal cord dysfunction. Most symptoms of Allergic Rhinitis can be treated effectively. Depending on the severity of symptoms, a variety of treatment strategies can be recommended to effectively treat allergies, as well as concomitant illness. If you are experiencing symptoms similar to those of Allergic Rhinitis, I encourage you to make an appointment with our office, Annapolis Allergy & Health Enhancement Center, to obtain a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.

 

 

8 Tips to Tame Winter Allergies By WebMD.com

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The article below was originally published on WebMd.com Whether it’s summer, spring, or winter allergies stuffing you up, you can do a lot to manage — or prevent — allergy symptoms, including:

Avoid Allergens. The first and best treatment for winter allergies is to avoid what you’re allergic to. For example, stay indoors when the wind is whipping up damp leaves in the yard, and keep indoor allergens to a minimum by mopping, sweeping, and dusting often.

Wash Away Allergens. Washing your hands and face frequently reduces the number of allergens you carry — and spread. When allergy symptoms are intense, take a shower; it removes allergens from your hair and encourages you to change the clothes that allergens may be clinging to. A bonus: The steam of a hot bath or shower may relieve allergy symptoms like sinus congestion.

Wash Bedding Often. Most bedrooms are havens for pet dander and dust mites. You can keep these and other allergens down by washing your sheets, pillowcases, and blankets in hot water. A weekly wash is great, but twice a month is fine, too.

And Get Better Bedding. Look for bedding that’s specially designed to be less permeable to allergens like dust mites. You can start your search online with the term “allergy bedding.”

Try a Saline Solution. Irrigation with saltwater is a great home remedy to relieve the nasal congestion that may be part and parcel of winter allergies. Look for saline at most drugstores, or make your own by mixing in a squirt bottle one teaspoon of non-iodized salt to eight ounces of water.

Get More Moisture. When you’re blowing your nose all the time and the thermostat is cranked up, it’s easy to get dehydrated. Pump up the fluids by carrying around a water bottle, eating more water-rich fruits and veggies, or enjoying hot tea. A side benefit to hot drinks: their steam may reduce nasal congestion.

The Air Needs Moisture, Too. It’s an indoor balancing act: Too little moisture in the air may irritate nose and throat; too much encourages mold and mildew growth. Costing as little as $5, a hygrometer — a humidity monitor — can help you track the moisture in your house and adjust with a humidifier/dehumidifier accordingly. Aim for humidity no lower than 30% and no higher than 50%.

Take Allergy Medication. Allergy meds can relieve symptoms like itchy eyes and nasal congestion, yet over-the-counter or prescription drugs won’t do you much good if you don’t use them right. Managing winter allergies is easier if you take medication before symptoms appear, and if you remember that taking more medicine doesn’t lead to fewer symptoms. Follow label directions carefully and you should get the relief you crave. You’re not alone with winter allergies. More than 40 million Americans are allergy-prone year-round. If you aren’t getting the relief you need with lifestyle changes or over-the-counter medication, it may be time to talk to an allergist.

To read about the Top Triggers for Winter Allergies, Click Here.

Sources:

http://www.webmd.com/allergies/features/winter-mold-allergies-risk?page=2

Asriani Chiu, MD, associate professor of pediatrics and medicine (allergy/immunology); program director, allergy/immunology fellowship program, Medical College of Wisconsin.

Steven H. Cohen, MD, FAAAAI, associate clinical professor, Medical College of Wisconsin. American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology: “Allergies vs. Colds,””Preparing Your Home For Battle: Fighting Indoor Allergies.”

Alan Goldsobel, MD, spokesman, American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology; physician, Allergy and Asthma Associates of Northern California.