Spring is here, and for many people, it marks the start of allergy season.
Do you or your loved ones suffer from significant nasal allergies - also known as hay fever? Does it affect the quality of your life, sleep, work or education?
Do you suffer from recurrent sinus infections or asthma, which is allergy-induced? Do you spend hundreds of dollars every year treating allergies or its complications?
Then read on! Help is available!
The first thing to do is to make a careful note of your symptoms, possible triggers, if your allergy symptoms are worse indoors, outdoors or both, worse at home, work or at school and worse during certain times of the year, such as during spring, summer or fall. This information will help your doctor decide if your symptoms are triggered by allergies or not.
Allergies are commonly brought on by allergenic triggers such as pollen, animal dander, dust, mold or dust mites. Another group of triggers known as irritants such as cigarette and wood smoke, cleaning chemicals, paint, strong smelling skin and body care products, pollution, automobile exhaust and alcohol and spicy foods could also trigger similar nasal and eye symptoms!
A good history and allergy skin tests will help distinguish between the two. Allergy skin tests will be positive if your symptoms are caused by allergenic triggers. If allergy skin tests are negative, then your doctor may decide that your symptoms are not allergy induced and probably induced by one of the irritants mentioned above.
Not uncommonly, your symptoms may be induced by both sets of triggers - pollen, animal dander and cigarette smoke, for example.
Now that you know that you have allergic rhinitis (allergy induced), what do you do next? There are three choices available to you. They are not mutually exclusive and often are tried together. The choices include allergen avoidance, allergy medications and allergy injections.
Allergen avoidance is important. There are perennial allergens (cats, dogs, dust mites) and seasonal allergens (pollen). Perennial allergens keep your nose, sinuses and eyes inflamed all the time; this makes you more vulnerable during pollen season.
If you know that your nasal and eye allergy symptoms are caused by dogs or cats, you should avoid them to the best of your capacity. Patients who are good-hearted fail to understand this simple fact because of their love for their pets. Unfortunately, their suffering may not get better without avoiding them.
There are no hypoallergenic cats or dogs! It is a myth created by the sellers of these animals. Allergy to these animals mainly comes from their saliva.
Patients often believe their allergy symptoms get worse when they are exposed to certain dogs or cats but not to others. There is no scientific proof for this belief. In fact, a study published in one of the reputed medical journals showed there are no differences in allergy-causing tendencies among different breeds of dogs. It makes sense because all dogs and cats evolved from common ancestors. Washing them with soap and water once a week, keeping them out of houses or bedrooms, keeping litter boxes outside in the garage for example, vacuuming the house twice a week with vacuum cleaners that have HEPA filters, and changing air-conditioning filters once a month are some of the choices available to owners of pets who cannot remove them.
It might be mites
Dust mites are microscopic creatures that live in carpets, bedding and sofas. Dust mite allergy is not common in Arizona. Dust mites need a humidity of 70 percent or more to survive and this is not available here. Despite this, dust mites may be found in mattresses, sofas and pillows. Dust mites live off skin scales that fall off your body during sleep. Your sweat offers them the water source they need to survive. You are allergic to a protein in their stools (dust mite pellets).
Older pillows and mattresses may be full of these dust mite pellets, which make them heavier. Dust mites may also be plentiful in feather pillows and comforters. Using foam pillows and mattresses, replacing pillows every two years, barrier proofing pillows and mattresses with dust mite proof covers, washing linen in hot water (beware of accidental burns to you and your children!) once a week and regular vacuuming of the house twice a week are some of the strategies that are available to you if you are allergic to dust mites.
To be continued ...
Natarajan Asokan, M.D., F.A.A.P. is a board-certified allergist and immunologist and a board-certified pediatrician with more than 25 years of experience as a physician and 10 years of experience as a practicing allergist and immunologist. He treats adults and children with various allergy and immunology problems. He can be reached at 1739 Beverly Ave, Suite 118, Kingman, AZ 86409, (928) 681-5800, Fax: (928) 681-5801, or www.trinityallergy.com.