How to Overcome Fall and Winter Allergies and Stay Healthy
We love North Carolina, especially the Triangle area.
But with all the wonderful things North Carolina brings, it’s also one of the most challenging places in the country for those with allergies.
Out of the top 100 most difficult places to live with allergies, Charlotte ranked in at 39, Winston-Salem at 49, Raleigh was listed as 81 and Durham barely made the list at 100, according to rankings by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.
Winter and fall allergies can make you miserable. That’s why we’ll take a look at common allergy myths, effective allergy treatments, and tips to help you stay healthy during the winter (and year round).
Fall Allergies: Fact or Fiction
More than 50 million Americans suffer from allergies each year, representing a cost of more than $18 billion annually. In addition, allergies are the sixth leading cause of chronic illness in the U.S.
What causes allergies?
Allergies are caused by an overreaction of the immune system to certain substances. An allergen is any substance that causes an allergic reaction.
Many of these allergies are seasonal, caused by common allergens like pollen and pet dander. If untreated, allergies can lead to chronic conditions such as rhinosinusitis and asthma.
Fall allergy symptoms are enough to make anyone miserable. Don’t compound your problem by falling prey to common allergy myths.
We’ve compiled some of the most common allergy misconceptions. Can you separate fact from fiction?
QUIZ: CAN YOU SPOT THE ALLERGY MYTHS?
1. HYPOALLERGENIC PETS ARE PERFECT FOR THOSE WHO HAVE ALLERGIES.
Technically, there’s actually no such thing as a hypoallergenic pet. It’s not the animal’s fur that causes allergic reactions. The allergens are related to the pet dander, and these allergens are present regardless of how much –or how little—fur the dog has. Pet dander is the skin that flakes off of animals.
However, hypoallergenic breeds shed a lot less. This means that you may not have as frequent contact with the pet dander—but this doesn’t mean that the animal itself is hypoallergenic.
2. LOCAL HONEY WILL “CURE” YOU OF ALLERGIES.
There’s nothing wrong with putting a teaspoonful of local honey into your cup of tea, just don’t expect it to cure your allergy symptoms. While there is anecdotal evidence that local honey may help, these have not been duplicated consistently in research studies.
Pollen and other allergens travel in the wind, and ironically, the pollen you are exposed to during allergy season is very likely to be anything but local. Therefore, honey made from local bees is highly unlikely to help.
This also means that the relief people experience from local honey is likely the placebo effect.
However, honey does have some good properties that will help you. It’s a natural cough suppressant and may even have anti-inflammatory effects — just don’t expect it to “cure” your allergies.
Word of warning: do NOT give honey to children younger than age 1. It poses serious health risks, including a serious form of food poisoning.
3. CHILDREN CAN OUTGROW ALLERGIES.
While some children will outgrow their allergies, roughly half will still have problems with common allergens like pets, dust mites and pollen into adult life.
It’s more important to work with an ENT—like those at Raleigh Capitol Ear, Nose and Throat—who specializes in treating children. Our ENT physicians (called otolaryngologists) can monitor them throughout their childhood and even into adolescence and adulthood.
4. DON’T BOTHER GETTING RID OF TREES AROUND YOUR HOUSE. THIS WON’T HELP YOU AVOID ALLERGENS.
Pollen is one of the main allergens that causes stuffy noses, sore throats and the classic “hay fever” symptoms. Many people mistakenly believe that getting rid of vegetation around their homes will reduce their exposure—but that isn’t necessarily the case.
As mentioned earlier, pollen can travel in the wind, so the pollen that may be causing your allergies to flare up could have come from hundreds of miles away.
5. LONG-TERM ALLERGY TREATMENT (IMMUNOTHERAPY) ALWAYS INVOLVES “ALLERGY SHOTS.”
There are several options when it comes to immunotherapy. Sublingual immunotherapy doesn’t involve needles. This well-proven treatment is administered by placing drops of allergenic extract under the tongue. You can learn more about this service from Raleigh Capitol Ear, Nose and Throat.
Conclusion: The best resource for reliable allergy information is your local ENT physician.
There are simply too many unreliable sources of information out there.
While a well-meaning friend may post the latest allergy “solution” on his or her Facebook page, its source may often be questionable.
It is best to get the information from someone who has extensive knowledge of your health care history and is in a unique position to give you the care you need.
Your local Raleigh Capitol Ear, Nose and Throat physicians can help you get to the bottom of what is causing your allergies and create a treatment plan tailored specifically just for you.
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Winter Allergies: Why Year-Round Treatment Is Crucial
When it comes to allergy season, spring and fall tend to steal the spotlight. However, winter allergies are also common, and they can put a damper on these cold months.
Allergens are still lurking around, even in the late winter months
Just because pollen isn’t in the air doesn’t mean that allergens—things that cause allergies—are gone. Winter may bring relief to those who are allergic to pollen, but indoor allergens are still present. This is one reason why it’s so important to have allergy treatment year round.
In fact, according to information from the Mayo Clinic even your heater can cause problems by sending allergen particles into the air. When inhaled, they can create the same allergy symptoms seen in the spring and fall.
These indoor allergies can include:
- Dust mites
- Pet dander
- Insect or roach droppings
Winter is a good time to curl up in front of a fireplace with a nice cup of cocoa—unless you have inhalant allergies. While wood smoke and tobacco smoke are not allergens themselves, they can still affect you. Therefore, it’s best to limit your use of fireplaces, according to information from the Cleveland Clinic.
Perhaps one reason that winter allergies don’t get the attention and press they deserve is because they share a lot of symptoms with the common cold, and you may not even be aware that allergens are behind your sneezing and stuffy nose.
Can you tell the difference between an allergy and the common cold?
Colds are more common in winter, and since they share some of the same symptoms as allergies, it can be difficult to tell them apart. For example, they can both demonstrate:
- Stuffy, runny nose
- Sore throat
However, these questions can help you determine which is which:
HOW LONG HAVE YOU HAD THESE SYMPTOMS?
While allergies can last months, the duration of a cold is usually three to 14 days.
DOES YOUR BODY ACHE?
Colds can sometimes make you feel achy, but allergies never do.
ARE YOUR EYES ITCHY OR WATERY?
Then it’s most likely you have an allergy—this symptom is fairly rare with the common cold.
How to minimize your chances of getting winter allergies
There are few things more frustrating than looking forward to a wonderful family event only to have the good time hampered by allergies. Often, the best allergy treatment is to avoid exposure to things that will agitate them.
You should consider:
- Using a HEPA filter vacuum. These filters are 99.97 proficient in capturing particles 0.3 microns
- Keeping home humidity levels low—aim for 40 to 50 percent
- Washing bedding weekly
- Removing mold
- Keeping indoor pets out of the bedroom
- Placing dehumidifiers in damp areas, particularly basements
If you need allergy treatment, there are several options to help you
The only way to get year-round relief from the miserable inconvenience of allergies is for one of our local ear nose and throat doctors at Raleigh Capitol ENT to provide a plan tailored to fit your needs. Some of the most common forms of treatment include:
Immunotherapy involves exposing the body to a diluted version of the allergen in order to gradually build up a resistance to it.
There are two types of immunotherapy. One, subcutaneous immunotherapy is more widely known as “allergy shots.” Another type is sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT), which utilizes drops placed under the tongue. This is a great option for children or those who don’t like needles.
If over-the-counter medications have not provided relief, we can work with you to determine a prescriptive alternative.
Ready to find relief from your winter allergies? Schedule an appointment to talk to one of our doctors for allergy treatment in Raleigh, Cary, Durham and nearby areas.
Top 10 Tips for Staying Healthy During the Winter
It can be started by the simplest action: Your sister sneezes on her way to the supper table, where she touches the serving spoon to get a second helping of mashed potatoes.
Or perhaps children are playing video games and forget to wash their hands before sitting down to eat.
Often, these are the first steps to a miserable winter full of sniffles, sore throats and earaches.
While your local ENTs here at Raleigh Capitol Ear, Nose and Throat are always here to serve you if you get sick, we believe the best defense is a good offense—in other words, it’s best to not get sick at all.
Therefore, we’ve created a list of the top 10 tips for staying healthy during the winter.
1. DEFEND YOURSELF AGAINST SNEEZES.
Of course you’ve heard it’s polite to cover your mouth when you sneeze, but you probably don’t realize how important that is.
Researchers at MIT have discovered that germs from a sneeze travel much farther than originally thought. While larger droplets may be more obvious, these scientists discovered that smaller ones create a “cloud” that is often difficult to see. These clouds can travel far enough to reach an air ventilation system.
Be sure to cover your sneeze and if you’re around someone who fails to do so, kindly hand them a tissue, and then wash your hands or use hand sanitizer at the first available opportunity.
In addition, be aware that sneezing is a symptom of not just the common cold, but a host of allergy problems as well. If sneezing persists, contact one of our ENTs who will be happy to help you discover the cause of your sneeze.
2. WIPE DOWN THE ITEMS IN YOUR HOUSE THAT HARBOR THE MOST GERMS.
Clean doorknobs, handles, TV remotes and any video game controllers. All of these surfaces are covered in germs and over the holidays, having additional company only introduces new bacteria to the mix.
Cleaning these surfaces is a good habit to practice year round, and it’s vital if you are caring for a member of your household who is sick.
3. DON’T MERELY WASH YOUR HANDS—WASH THEM PROPERLY.
You should wash your hands with soap and warm water for as long as it takes to sing “Happy Birthday.” The Centers for Disease Control has gone as far to say that handwashing is a “do-it-yourself vaccination.” The CDC has extensive resources and statistics on the importance of washing your hands.
4. TAKE CONTROL DURING FLU SEASON.
Influenza kills thousands of Americans each year.
If you haven’t had your vaccination yet, don’t worry. Experts say that as long as the flu is circulating, it is beneficial to get a flu shot.
Remember, the flu shot does not cause the flu. Don’t fall for that myth and other misconceptions.
The Centers for Disease Control offers extensive information on how to tell flu facts from fiction.
5. IF YOU’RE SICK, STAY AT HOME.
You may think your coworkers admire your stamina for coming into work when you have a cold or throat infection. In actuality, they’re more concerned about catching the germs themselves and likely don’t appreciate you bringing unwelcome bacteria into the office.
If your coworker does come into work sick, make sure you wipe down everything he or she has touched.
6. AVOID TOUCHING YOUR NOSE OR MOUTH.
By touching your nose and mouth—particularly after coming in contact with communal objects such as tables, doorknobs and TV remotes—you’re giving viruses and bacteria a beeline to your sinuses. Don’t touch these areas unless you wash your hands first.
7. DO WHAT YOU CAN TO CLEAR YOUR HOME OF ALLERGENS.
If untreated, chronic allergies can lead to problems such as viral or bacterial rhinosinusitis, also known as a sinus infection.
You can clear your home of allergens by eliminating areas where mold breeds, using dust-mite proof mattresses, and making sure that Fido is trimmed and bathed to avoid spreading pet dander.
8. AVOID STRESS AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE.
Stress takes a toll on your body’s immune system and, as a result, makes you more vulnerable to any bacteria.
9. STRENGTHEN YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM.
While over-the-counter remedies make outlandish claims about boosting your immune system, one of the most effective methods is often overlooked: sleep.
Getting plenty of rest is vital to help your body stay healthy, according to the Cleveland Clinic. If you have trouble sleeping, or if you or your partner snores, set up an appointment with us at Raleigh Capitol ENT. You or your spouse may have sleep apnea, a highly treatable condition.
10. TRY TO AVOID CROWDS.
This is difficult, but whenever possible, try to shop or go to the grocery store during times when the store is the least busy. Even better, take advantage of many of the free pick-up services available, where you can place your orders online and don’t even have to go into the store.
Staying Healthy Is a Lifelong Endeavor
We understand it’s challenging to stay healthy when you are bombarded with allergy problems and sinus infections throughout the year. It’s important to realize that viral infections do NOT require antibiotic treatment, and most people with healthy immune systems will recover on their own with rest and fluids.
While these 10 tips are always useful at any time of year, if you have chronic sinus problems, schedule an appointment with one of our ENTs. Not only will this help you remain healthy, but it will enable you to return to the activities you love.
Raleigh Capitol Ear, Nose and Throat: With You Through All Four Seasons
We’ve touched on fall and winter, but summer and spring bring their share of allergy misery as well.
But you don’t have to live with it.
That’s why we offer the latest treatments tailored to fit your individual needs. We don’t believe in “one size fits all” medicine. We take time to listen to you, address your specific needs and become partners in your care.
Our physicians have extensive experience in common and complex cases and are nationally recognized as leaders in their field.
See why residents across the Triangle, Raleigh-Durham and Cary areas have selected us as the provider of choice. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.
Raleigh Capitol Ear, Nose, and Throat is the area’s premier physician-owned ENT practice with 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. For more information or to schedule an appointment, contact us.