If You Have Allergies, You Should Know These Four Facts
More than 50 million Americans have seasonal allergies, making them the sixth leading cause of chronic illnesses in the United States, costing more than $18 billion. That certainly brings a different perspective to the runny noses and watery eyes that plague Raleigh’s spring and fall. However, are you aware that allergies can put you at risk for other health problems? Or that the source of your allergy woes may be lurking in your living room? Whether allergies are a seasonal inconvenience or a constant problem, there are some important facts you should know. These will help you speak with your ENT about therapies that can help you.
What causes allergies?
That piece of pollen isn’t pollen—at least, as far as your body’s concerned. It sees the allergen as an unwelcome invader. When you come into contact with an allergen like pollen, your body alerts your immune system, which creates antibodies. Later, if your body comes in contact with that same allergen, the antibodies “remember” it produce histamine. Histamine is responsible for typical allergy symptoms such as:
- Stuffy nose
- Watery eyes
- Scratchy throat
- Runny nose
For some, allergies are a minor inconvenience, but for others, they can have a devastating effect on day-to-day life. To keep spring and fall allergies from interfering with your lifestyle, it’s important to examine these facts about allergies.
Four facts you should know about your allergies
1. YOUR HOME MAY BE THE SOURCE OF YOUR PROBLEMS.
Do you have indoor/ outdoor pets? They can contribute to your allergies. When you let Fido run around the yard, tiny flecks of pollen attach to his fur. Then he brings this allergen into your home. You pat him on the head and later touch your nose. That’s all it takes for outside allergens to creep into your home and cause classic allergy symptoms.
Pets aren’t the only culprit: if you’ve left your windows open or allowed dust to collect on your favorite knickknacks, you’re inadvertently contributing to your allergy problem. Don’t forget that carpets harbor all sorts of allergens, and even dust mites can creep into bedding.
While there are a lot of things you can’t control, it’s important to control the things you can. Some of these include:
- Encase bedding in dust-mite proof covers.
- If possible, replace carpeting with hardwood or use washable area rugs.
- If you have carpet, use a vacuum that has a HEPA filter.
- If you have an indoor/outdoor pet, bathe it regularly.
- Store stuffed animals and children’s toys in plastic bins.
- Use washable curtains or plastic blinds.
- Avoid wood-burning stoves.
- Eliminate mold by using ventilating fans and cleaning the refrigerator regularly.
Our ENT physicians specialize in comprehensive allergy treatment, and they may also have some useful tips for keeping your home allergen-free.
2. IF YOU HAVE ALLERGIES, YOU’RE AT A GREATER RISK OF OTHER HEALTH CONDITIONS.
Chronic allergies can cause more than just hay fever. You may be more likely to develop:
- Allergy-induced asthma
This may be caused by a wide variety of substances such as pet dander, mold spores and dust mites. These triggers vary from person to person. When you come into contact with one of these allergens, your immune system causes your airways to narrow and produce additional mucus. This causes coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath. While some cases of asthma are not serious, some are life-threatening.
- Fungal sinusitis
Fungus is everywhere, and for most healthy people, it’s not a problem. However, sometimes fungus can cause different types of sinusitis—and each type requires a different, precise method of treatment. Those who are immunosuppressed are at greater risk. Our ear, nose and throat physicians have extensive experience treating all types of sinusitis.
3. YOU CAN RECEIVE IMMUNOTHERAPY EVEN IF YOU HATE NEEDLES.
One common form of allergy treatment is immunotherapy, also called “allergy shots.” In this process, your body is gradually exposed to a diluted amount of the allergen. Then, the doses are increased until they reach a therapeutic level. As a result, your body develops a natural resistance, alleviating allergy symptoms.
Immunotherapy doesn’t necessarily have to involve “allergy shots.” A certain type of immunotherapy called sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT) doesn’t require needles. Instead, drops of the diluted allergen are placed under the tongue daily.
There are several advantages to SLIT:
- It’s more convenient and in some cases can be done at home.
- It’s easier for those who have to travel frequently.
- It’s less stressful for children.
- No needles are required
Our ENT physicians at Raleigh Capitol Ear, Nose and Throat can determine the source of your allergies and if you or your child is a good candidate for SLIT.
4. NEW, REVOLUTIONARY PROCEDURES ARE AVAILABLE TO HELP YOU.
Are you tired of recurring sinus infections? You may be a candidate for a balloon sinuplasty.
In this procedure, a tiny balloon is inserted into the blocked sinus cavity. The balloon is inflated for a few seconds, deflated and removed. This opens sinus passages, allowing them to drain. During the procedure, the sinuses can be irrigated as well.
The advantages of balloon sinuplasty include:
- You can return to regular activities faster—generally within two to three days.
- Because sinus tissue is not removed, there is less bleeding so you recover faster.
- It’s less painful than other types of sinus surgery.
- The procedure can be performed in our office by one of our ENT surgeons.
- There’s no need for nasal packing.
Balloon sinuplasty is very effective—studies show that 95 percent of patients showed significant improvement in as little as nine months.
How to prevent allergies
When it comes to preventing allergies, there’s no “one size fits all” approach. Our physicians carefully examine each patient’s situation to ensure he or she receives the best possible treatment to not only stop symptoms, but to also restore quality of life.
Raleigh Capitol Ear, Nose, and Throat is the area’s premiere physician-owned ENT practice with six convenient locations throughout Wake County. Our board-certified physicians have extensive experience in treating both common and complex cases to help adults and children alike. We offer six local ENT offices throughout Raleigh, Cary, Garner and Wake Forest. For more information or to schedule an appointment, contact us.