Unfortunately for Middle Tennessee residents, Spring allergy season is upon us. Seasonal allergies are not a rare problem. In fact, it has been estimated that 8.8% of the U.S. population (or approximately 24 million individuals) suffer from seasonal allergic rhinitis. The symptoms of this aggravating problem include sneezing, itching, runny or stuffy nose, and watery and irritated eyes. If untreated, these problems can eventually lead to sinus infections, recurrent respiratory infections, ear infections, and even prolonged asthma. In other words, these serious complications are ‘nothing to sneeze at.’
In the year 2000, we have multiple treatment options for SAR (seasonal allergic rhinitis). Don’t plan on suffering through another Spring pollen season without at least considering the treatment options available from me or another physician. Basically, the treatment options consist of: (1) decongestants (both topical to the nasal membranes and oral), (2) nasal corticosteroids (prescription nasal sprays that make the nose less sensitive to pollens and other irritants), (3) anticholinergics (big word for medications that reduce nasal secretions), (4) antihistamines (which block the body’s response to allergy-producing substances), (5) mast cell stabilizers (medications that ‘interrupt’ the body’s reaction to pollen and other allergic substances), and finally (6) immunotherapy (better known as ‘Allergy Shots’). So, you see, the list of therapies is diverse and can certainly be individualized for each patient. Additionally, one or more of these treatment modalities can be combined for better results.
Great strides have been made in all of the above therapies during the last decade. Side effect profiles have been reduced, and the duration of action of most of the above options has lengthened as well. If you are one of the unfortunate folks who predictably suffers severe and prolonged allergy symptoms every Spring, you really should consider consulting an allergist for possible immunotherapy. If you’re a perennial allergy-sufferer, it is unlikely that you will outgrow this tendency once you’re an adult. Additionally, dismiss your dreams of a retirement home in Arizona as a cure for your allergies. Although you may be able to delay allergy onset for a period of months by moving to a more favorable climate, you will likely develop allergies to local plants and nonnative plants used in landscaping within a fairly short period of time. If you are allergy-prone, this tendency will follow you wherever you roam.
In summary, realize that there are several treatment options available for seasonal allergic rhinitis. Talk to me or another physician about the medications that might be most helpful for you. Remember. . .”a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Perhaps, the above information will allow you to ‘stop and smell the roses this year.’
Stephen L. Hines, M.D.