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Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Allergies: Dealing with Nasal and Sinus Problems



Nasal allergies, or allergic rhinitis, are so common that one in five Americans suffer from them.  But as common as they are, they are often misdiagnosed, under-diagnosed, or under-treated, which leaves many people, sniffling, sneezing, and suffering needlessly. 

Aside from the runny nose, stuffed up sinuses, and red, itchy eyes, nasal allergies can also caused missed days at work or schools and lost productivity, which costs Americans billions of dollars.  If you suffer from nasal allergies, but think there’s nothing you can do but suffer in silence, guess again!  Since nasal allergies can often be treated with either over-the-counter or prescription medications, doesn’t it make sense to stop letting your allergies get the best of you and start getting them under control? 

When an allergy sufferer is exposed to an allergy trigger, their body reacts by releasing histamines, which attack the allergen as if it is a germ or virus, causing the runny nose, red, itchy eyes, and stuffy head allergies are known for.  Many times these nasal allergy symptoms can lead to sinus problems as well.  The sinuses are hollow pockets in the skull that are attached to the nasal passages.  When the nasal membranes swell in response to allergies, the inflamed tissue can result in blocked sinuses, trapping mucus and air, which leads to pain and pressure. 

Nasal allergies and sinus problems can occur at any time of the year, although they are more common in spring and summer, when pollen and other allergens are higher and allergy sufferers are outdoors.  Allergy sufferers may put up with their symptoms for weeks, or even months, depending on what their allergy triggers are.  But instead of putting up with symptoms, why not find an effective treatment so you can reclaim your life? 

Over-the-Counter Treatment Options

Over-the-counter treatments are a good option if your nasal allergy symptoms are mild or you only suffer a few times a year.  Your OTC treatment options include: 
  •  Antihistamines, which block the histamine chemical which causes many allergy symptoms, including itching and sneezing. Examples of antihistamines include Benadryl, Zyrtec, Allegra, and Claritin. 
  • Decongestants. While antihistamines reduce the histamines that cause allergies, they often do not relieve the congestion that comes with nasal allergies. Decongestants like phenylephrine hydrocholoride, which is found in Sudafed PE, and pseudoephedrine hydrochloride, the main ingredient in Sudafed, reduce swelling in the nasal passages, opening them up and reducing congestion. Decongestants that come in nasal spray form should not be used for more than three days at a time, as they can cause a rebound effect, causing increased congestion. 
  • Other over-the-counter options that may help relieve the symptoms of nasal rhinitis include Cromolyn sodium (NasalCrom), a nasal spray that relieves runny or itchy nose, sneezing, and stuffy nose due to allergies. Eye drops containing naphazoline and tetrahydrozoline can provide relief from red eyes, while drops with ketotifen, an antihistamine, help relieve itchy eyes.
Prescription Treatments for Allergic Rhinitis



When over-the-counter medications just aren’t offering enough relief from your nasal allergy symptoms, it’s time to call in the big guns and head to the doctor for help.  Once the doctor has determined you are suffering from allergies and not another medical condition, there are several prescription options available to try. 
  • Steroid nasal sprays are the standard prescription treatment for nasal allergies. By reducing swelling in the nasal passages and relieve congestion, itchiness, and sneezing. One benefit to steroid nasal sprays is that the medication is focused to the affected area, so the entire body is not exposed to the steroid medicine, which can have harmful effects it taken long term. 
  • Prescription antihistamines and decongestants. You may be prescribed stronger antihistamines or decongestants to help you control your symptoms. These may come in the form of a pill, nasal spray, or as eye drops. 
  • Oral steroids may be given for severe allergy flare ups. 
  • Allergy shots, also called immunotherapy, are a good choice for long time sufferers. While over-the-counter and prescription allergy medicines can relieve the symptoms of nasal allergies, allergy shots may offer a cure. By regularly exposing your immune system to tiny amounts of an allergen through shots containing increasing doses of your allergic triggers, your body slowly becomes used to it, reducing the allergic reaction. Approximately 85% to 90% of people find relief from allergy shots.  
Self-Care



While OTC and prescription medications and allergy shots make it easier to cope with and control nasal allergy symptoms, there are also plenty of other non-medical interventions and steps you can take to control and prevent your allergies. 
  •  Nasal irrigation, which requires you to squirt salt water into your nose, may seem like a strange treatment option, but many users of Neti pots and nasal irrigators swear by them. With proper use, nasal irrigation clears congestion and other symptoms as well as an antihistamine without the side effects. Nasal irrigation washes out nasal passages and sinuses with salt water, clearing out allergens that are causing symptoms, as well as washing away bacteria and excess mucus. Use distilled, sterile, or previously boiled water to make up the irrigation solution. And always rinse the irrigation device after each use and allow it to air dry. With various nasal irrigators and accessories available, Allergy and Asthma Technology can help you breath a little easier this allergy season! 
  • Environmental control will help reduce your exposure to allergens, which, in turn, should help reduce your allergy symptoms. A few simple steps and preventative measures taken around your house can make like much more bearable. if you're allergic to dust mites, protect your mattress with an allergy-proof cover and use zippered pillow covers to keep the dust mites at bay. If it's pollen that sends your allergic rhinitis into high gear, keep windows shut during high-pollen days and use air conditioners to help filter the air. When animal dander sends you running from the room sneezing and rubbing your eyes, try to keep it out of your home if you have a pet. A HEPA filter can make life more bearable for any allergy sufferer, as well. While these steps can reduce your exposure to allergens, chances are they won't completely eliminate your allergy symptoms. 
  • Moist air can help relieve sinus problems such as pain and pressure. If your nasal allergies have led to sinus issues, try using a humidifier or vaporizer (be sure it is kept clean and dust free when not in use and the filter is replaced when needed).  Long showers, warm compresses over the nose and mouth, and a steam inhaler or bath can also help with sinus symptoms. 
  • Protecting yourself when you know you will be exposed to an allergen is often your first line of defense. If your lawn needs to be mowed during the height of pollen season, wear a mask and goggles to protect yourself, or hire a local teen to do the work for your! 
  • Natural supplements such as butterbur and quercetin can help with allergy symptoms and are often a popular choice with people who wish to find a natural cure for their allergies instead of having to resort to drugs. Before you start any supplements, consult your doctor, as some, including echinacea and butterbur, are related to ragweed, which means the supplements you're taking to reduce your allergies may trigger a more severe reaction instead. 
Where to Start



The world of allergy treatments can be overwhelming and many people don’t know where to start.  If you think you’re suffering from allergic rhinitis, or nasal allergies, try an over-the-counter treatment.  If it works, you’ve solved your problem!  Keep some in the medicine cabinet and you’ll be ready the next time your allergies flare up.  But if you start to experience symptoms more frequently, or your symptoms are too severe for OTC medicines, then it’s time to head to the doctor.  There, you’ll be able to confirm you have allergies or find out if you are suffering from another condition, ranging from a minor cold or medication side effect to sinus problems, asthma, thyroid dysfunction, or other issue. 

If your doctor does decide that allergies are the problem, then you’ll need to uncover the cause of the allergy, which means allergy testing.  While allergy testing, which traditionally means injecting the skin with small amounts of known allergens and waiting to see what the skin reacts to, is not a comfortable procedure, it is the fastest way to determine what allergens are causing your symptoms and how best to treat them. 

While the symptoms of nasal allergies can range from a mild annoyance to a major drain on your life and wallet, with the right treatment, most people can find relief from their symptoms, allowing them to enjoy a full life both indoors and outdoors! 
 

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