The Allergy season is upon us again with sneezing, runny nose, congestion, itchy eyes, throat irritation, wheezing, and ear congestion. Less commonly associated with Seasonal Allergies are fatigue, malaise, irritability and persistent coughing. Severe life threatening conditions do also occur and require awareness now that kids are out playing sports. Allergy symptoms are very often mistaken for colds and respiratory infections including Strep. throat.
If you have mild symptoms then it's worthwhile trying over the counter anti-histamine medications like Claritin, Allegra, Zyrtec and Xyzal(or generics) which can be used as needed or daily. Please avoid the '-D' versions if you have high blood pressure, palpitations or any other heart conditions.
Continued symptoms might require over the counter steroid nasal sprays, like Flonase or Nasocort, which need to be used daily and tend to be very effective for ear, nose and throat symptoms. Don't expect to hit home runs, win Olympic medals or win the Tour de France as these aren't anabolic or strength inducing steroids and are absorbed in small amounts. Anti-inflammatory eye drops like Optivar or Pataday are useful for itchy eyes as needed.
Persistent severe allergies might require a step up to Singulair, a stronger anti-inflammatory medication that is useful in allergies and asthma. Albuterol inhalers can be useful in treating the wheezing that sometimes accompanies Allergy-induced Asthma. Finally Allergy Shots, which train the body to ignore exposure to pollen etc., are the last resort for intractable symptoms.
Some patients benefit from a mask when outdoors e.g. gardening or exercising.
In patients who develop Anaphylaxis characterized by generalized hives, swelling of the tongue or in the mouth and throat, wheezing or chest tightness this is a medical emergency and 911 should be called if medical care is not immediately available. After an initial episode of a severe reaction an allergy evaluation is mandatory to identify the cause and prevent a life threatening recurrence. An emergency Epinephrine Injection Pen should be carried by the patient at all times following an episode of Anaphylaxis.
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