Monday, April 22, 2024

Christus Health: Spring is Here and So Are Allergies

by BPT Staff
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This week marks the official start to spring, and as warmer weather begins to settle in, the season brings with it an unwanted guest: allergies.

More than 25% of Americans – approximately 80 million people — suffer from seasonal allergies, which can range from a mild nuisance to a near-debilitating issue, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Dr. Jean Ancelet, a family medicine physician with CHRISTUS Trinity Clinic in Shreveport, said spring is when the flora of the world wakes up and starts producing pollen.

“In the U.S., the most common plant allergens are grass, which is everywhere, and ragweed,” Ancelet said. “But also locally, oak pollen, red cedar pollen and pine pollen can cause symptoms in some people.”

Although cold and allergy symptoms are similar, Ancelet said there are ways to tell the difference.

“The most common allergy symptoms are runny nose (usually clear), stuffy nose, itchy, watery eyes, and a scratchy throat, often with a frequent, throat-clearing cough,” he said. “A cold is a viral infection that usually includes fever and pain, like a sore throat (not just slightly irritated) or body aches. A cold’s cough is also more aggressive and incessant than the simpler throat-clearing cough of seasonal allergies.”

Ancelet said allergy symptoms can last as long as exposure to the allergen is ongoing.

“For example, for an allergy to a pet, such as a cat or a dog, once you are no longer around that animal the symptoms begin to abate,” he said. “For a pollen allergy though, the symptoms will continue throughout that plant’s pollenating season.”

Taking an antihistamine early in allergy season before symptoms start, using an air purifier at home, avoiding outdoor activities in the morning where pollen counts are highest and tracking your local pollen counts are all ways to prepare for the allergy season.

“There are many safe over-the-counter antihistamines and steroid nasal sprays that a person can use to minimize allergy symptoms,” Ancelet said. “If allergies are seasonal (usually pollen-based), taking antihistamines or using steroid nasal sprays daily for the duration of the pollenating season can help to minimize these symptoms. Saline nasal rinse kits can also be very helpful.”

It is very common for a person to develop a sinus infection on top of dealing with allergies and those infections usually require prescription medications.

“If your symptoms cannot be controlled to a tolerable level with over-the-counter medications, you should see your primary care physician for additional care options,” he said. “If your symptoms include fever, aches or cough, you may need to be evaluated for more than just allergies.”

In general, Ancelet said allergies are more uncomfortable than they are damaging.

“But the effects on quality of life, including the disruption of sleep (if you can’t breathe well through your nose) or the missed days of work or school because of generally feeling poorly, are nothing to ignore,” he said. “There are treatments to make it through this season with less of these disruptions.”

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