Doctor, you Say I Have Allergies? Are you Sure?

shutterstock_126144308Spring is here, and so is the pollen count.  I’ve had countless patients who’ve come into the clinic lately suffering from season allergies.  Seasonal allergies can cause symptoms in the nose, the eyes and the throat.  The nasal passages are the areas that are affected by most people with allergies.  Allergic rhinitis is the term that we use in the medical field to refer to the inflammation of the nasal passages due to allergies.  The inflammation can cause a variety of symptoms including sneezing, itching, nasal congestion, runny nose and post-nasal drip (the sensation that mucus is draining from the sinuses down the back of the throat).

Who is affected:  Allergic rhinitis (also called hay fever) affects about 20% of people of all ages.  Patients who have asthma or eczema have a higher chance of developing allergies.

Causes:  Symptoms of allergic rhinitis are caused by a reaction in the nasal passages to small airborne particles known as allergens.  These particles could be pollen, dust or dust mites.  These particles can also cause reactions in the lungs such as asthma or in the eyes (allergic conjunctivitis).

Symptoms:  The term “rhinitis” refers only to nasal symptoms, but many patients experience symptoms in their eyes, throat, and ears.

1)   Nose:  watery nasal discharge, blocked nasal passages, facial pressure, loss of taste, post-nasal drip, nasal itching, sneezing

2)   Sleep:  daytime fatigue, frequent awakening at night, mouth breathing, difficulty performing work

3)   Eyes:  swelling and blueness of the skin below the eyes, red eyes, itching, clear discharge

4)   Throat:  sore throat, hoarse voice, itching

5)   Ears:  popping of the ears, itching of the ears

Diagnosis:  A physical exam by a medical provider usually is usually all that is required to make the diagnosis, however further testing can be done to identify the allergen. Allergy and asthma specialists often perform testing for patients to determine the substance that they are allergic to.

Treatment:  Identifying the triggers that provoke allergic rhinitis is important so that patients can reduce exposure.  Sometimes recalling events prior to symptoms starting such as a recent camping trip, visit to friend’s house who has animals or spending time on a farm may be helpful.  Noting the time, date and potential allergens in the school as well as home and work can be helpful.    Other possible treatments include:

1)   Nasal irrigation and saline sprays

2)   Nasal glucocorticoids such as Fluticasone

3)   Nasal antihistamines such as Astelin

4)   Oral antihistamines such as diphenhydramine or cetirizine

5)   Oral decongestants such as Pseudoephedrine

6)   Nasal decongestants such as Afrin

7)   Mast cell stabilizers such as Cromolyn

8)   Leukotriene modifiers such as Singular

Skin testing can be performed by allergists to help determine the allergen so that it can be avoided in the future.  Sometimes allergy shots are recommended to help the body become accustomed to the allergen with the hope that repeated exposure will reduce allergic symptoms.

There are several sources of information to determine the allergen/pollen count in your area.  One example is below:

Accuweather.Com – Dust, Dander and Pollen Counts USA

To find an allergy doctor in your area, the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology’s Find an Allergist Website is:

This document is for informational purposes only, and should not be considered medical advice for any individual patient.  If you have questions please contact your medical provider.


I hope that you have found this information useful.  Wishing you the best of health,

Scott Rennie, DO



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