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Q&A: Allergic Rhinitis with Callie Fletcher, APN

Oct 24, 2016

Fletcher_Callie_APRN

If you sneeze a lot, if your nose is often runny or stuffy, or if your eyes, mouth or skin often feels itchy, you may have allergic rhinitis, a condition that affects 40 million to 60 million Americans. Allergic rhinitis, like skin rashes and other allergies, develops when the body’s immune system becomes sensitized and overreacts to something in the environment that typically causes no problem in most people. 

Callie Fletcher, APRN, with CHI St. Vincent Primary Care talks about allergies.

As we all know (and many of us are experiencing), allergy season is upon us. What are some common allergies this time of year?

If you sneeze a lot, if your nose is often runny or stuffy, or if your eyes, mouth or skin often feels itchy, you may have allergic rhinitis, a condition that affects 40 million to 60 million Americans.

Allergic rhinitis, like skin rashes and other allergies, develops when the body’s immune system becomes sensitized and overreacts to something in the environment that typically causes no problem in most people.

Today, I’m going to talk about seasonal allergic rhinitis, which is caused by allergic sensitivity to airborne mold spores or to pollens from grass, trees and weeds.

What are the symptoms of allergic rhinitis?

Symptoms that occur shortly after you come into contact with the substance you are allergic to may include:

  • Itchy nose, mouth, eyes, throat, skin, or any area

  • Problems with smell

  • Runny nose

  • Sneezing

  • Watery eyes

Symptoms that may develop later include:

  • Stuffy nose (nasal congestion)

  • Coughing

  • Clogged ears and decreased sense of smell

  • Sore throat

  • Dark circles under the eyes

  • Puffiness under the eyes

  • Fatigue and irritability

  • Headache

What do you suggest for patients struggling with allergies?

The best treatment is to avoid the pollens that cause your symptoms. It may be impossible to avoid all pollen. But you can often take steps to reduce your exposure.

You may be prescribed medicine to treat allergic rhinitis. The medicine your doctor prescribes depends on your symptoms and how severe they are. Your age and whether you have other medical conditions, such as asthma, will also be considered.

For mild allergic rhinitis, a nasal wash can help remove mucus from the nose. You can buy a saline solution at a drug store or make one at home using one cup of warm water, half a teaspoon of salt, and pinch of baking soda.

What are some of the medicine options for allergies?

Medicines called antihistamines work well for treating allergy symptoms. They may be used when symptoms do not happen often or do not last long. Be aware of the following:

  • Many antihistamines taken by mouth can be bought without a prescription.

  • Some can cause sleepiness. You should not drive or operate machines after taking this type of medicine.

  • Others cause little or no sleepiness.

  • Antihistamine nasal sprays work well for treating allergic rhinitis. Ask your doctor if you should try these medicines first.

CORTICOSTEROIDS

  • Nasal corticosteroid sprays are the most effective treatment for allergic rhinitis.

  • They work best when used nonstop, but they can also be helpful when used for shorter periods of time.

  • Corticosteroid sprays are generally safe for children and adults.

  • Many brands are available. You can buy one brand without a prescription. For all other brands, you will need a prescription from your doctor.

DECONGESTANTS

  • Decongestants may also be helpful for reducing symptoms such as nasal stuffiness.

  • Do not use nasal spray decongestants for more than 3 days.

ALLERGY SHOTS

Allergy shots (immunotherapy) are sometimes recommended if you cannot avoid the pollen and your symptoms are hard to control. This includes regular shots of the pollen you are allergic to. Each dose is slightly larger than the dose before it, until you reach the dose that helps control your symptoms. Allergy shots may help your body adjust to the pollen that is causing the reaction.

It sounds like there are a lot of options out there for people struggling with seasonal allergies.

Absolutely. It’s important for everyone to know: You don’t have to suffer. Contact your physician today and he or she can help.

If you would like to learn more, you can visit Callie Fletcher at the Sherwood CHI St. Vincent Family Clinic.

Callie Fletcher, APRN
CHI St. Primary Care - Sherwood
501.552.7262

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