Top Ten Questions to Ask Your ENT Before Allergy Season
Spring sneezes may be the last thing on your mind during the winter, but it’s important to have a health care treatment plan in place before allergy season starts. In many cases, a few preventative measures can help you avoid infections. Following are the top ten questions you should ask your ENT before spring flowers start blooming.
Get Ready For Allergy Season
1. WHAT AM I ALLERGIC TO?
While many people use “hay fever” or “allergies” to refer to a wide variety of symptoms, these blanket terms don’t really get at the heart of what is causing the problem. The best course of treatment depends upon what you are allergic to—and pollen isn’t the only culprit. Some of the most common allergens include: mold, pet dander and airborne pollutants. Many of these allergens are around you all year, which makes it even more important to identify the cause of your problems.
2. HOW CAN I PREVENT ALLERGY PROBLEMS?
Once your ENT has found the answer to what you are allergic to, he or she can then tackle a treatment plan. Sometimes, the solution may be as simple as removing the source of your allergies. For example, if air pollutants irritate your sinus passages, you may need to install a special type of filter in your home. Likewise, if ragweed pollen is the source of your distress, you’ll want to keep windows and doors shut during pollen season.
3. IS MEDICATION THE RIGHT OPTION FOR ME?
Some patients have allergies throughout the year. If medication is not proving effective, or if patients don’t wish to remain on medication indefinitely, immunotherapy may be an option. Immunotherapy slowly introduces the allergen to your system, “teaching” your body how to fight it.
4. ARE ALLERGIES THE SOURCE OF MY PROBLEMS?
In some cases, there may be structural problems with the sinuses themselves. Your ENT physician can determine if this is the source of your discomfort and outline a plan for treatment.
5. DO I NEED TO CLEAN MY SINUSES? HOW?
Nasal saline irrigation can help remove mucus and allergens by gently running salt water throughout your sinuses. It’s not as difficult as it may sound, and your ENT can provide a complete guide on how to perform a saline nasal irrigation.
6. DO I NEED ALLERGY SHOTS?
There are many ways to treat allergies, and your ENT will perform a skin test to determine the cause of your allergies and tailor a health care treatment plan to fit your needs. Immunotherapy (often called “allergy shots”) has proven to be an effective course of treatment for many patients.
7. I HATE NEEDLES. IS THERE AN ALTERNATIVE TO ALLERGY SHOTS?
Yes. You may be a candidate for SLIT – sublingual immunotherapy During SLIT, drops are placed under the tongue, held there for two minutes, and then swallowed. Your ENT can determine if you’re a candidate.
8. DO I NEED ANTIBIOTICS TO GET RID OF MY INFECTION?
Overuse of antibiotics can cause serious problems. In many cases, overuse can promote the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria—often called “superbugs.” This means that antibiotics will gradually lose their effectiveness while “superbugs” become stronger. While some infections are caused by bacteria, others are caused by viruses. Antibiotics will NOT help against a virus.
The good news is that those in relatively good health do not need antibiotics to fully recover, and some studies indicate that even when antibiotics are prescribed, they don’t necessarily help patients recover faster.
9. HOW CAN I TELL IF I HAVE AN ALLERGY OR A COLD?
Good question. It’s often difficult to tell the difference. While only an ENT can make an accurate diagnosis, a general rule of thumb is that a cold can last three to 10 days, while allergies tend to linger for weeks. In addition, symptoms such as aches and pains and a sore throat tend to fall into the cold category. Itchy eyes are common in allergies, but not with colds.
10. CAN SINUS SURGERY HELP ME?
Of course, this will depend upon each individual patient’s situation. In some cases, sinus surgery such as a Balloon Sinuplasty can be very helpful by opening small sinus passages and allowing them to drain. Speak with your ENT about your options.
Allergies make millions of Americans miserable, with fatigue, sneezing and runny noses. Your ENT physician wants to be a partner in your care and help determine the best course of action to eliminate allergy symptoms that can dramatically affect your lifestyle
American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery. “Allergies and Hay Fever.”
American Academy of Otolaryngology – AAO-HNSF Updated Clinical Practice Guideline: Adult Sinusitis.
Mayo Clinic. “Cold or Allergy: Which is it?”