Millions of Americans suffer from hay fever, also referred to as nasal allergies. An ENT specialist can help determine which environmental factors are causing your discomfort. The specialist can also design a treatment plan that will help make life more enjoyable.
Allergy symptoms appear when the immune system reacts to an allergen that has entered the body as if it were an unwelcome invader. The immune system will produce special antibodies capable of recognizing the same allergic substance if it enters the body at a later time.
When an allergen re-enters the body, your immune system quickly recognizes it, this causes a series of reactions. These reactions often involve blood vessel dilation, and production histamine. Histamine produces common allergy symptoms such as itchy and watery eyes, sneezing, stuffy/runny nose, scratchy throat, and hives.
Many common substances can be allergens. Pollens, food, mold, dust, feathers, animal dander, and airborne pollutants commonly cause many to suffer allergic reactions.
Early springtime allergic rhinitis is most often caused by tree pollen. Contrary to popular belief, flowering plants rarely cause allergy symptoms. In the late spring and early summer, grass pollens begin. After a hard frost in the late summer, weed pollens begin.
Household allergens can be irritating all year long. These include dust mites, pet dander, and types of mold. Symptoms caused by these allergens are typically worse in the winter when the house is closed up, due to poor air ventilation.
Mold also causes allergy problems. Molds are present all year long and grow both outdoors and indoors. Dead leaves and farm areas are common sources for outdoor molds. Indoor plants, old books, bathrooms, and damp areas are common sources of indoor mold growth.
Considering the millions of dollars spent on medication for allergies and the cost of lost work productivity, allergies cannot be considered a minor problem. For some, symptoms may be seasonal; for others, allergies symptoms are year-round. There are several ways to decrease allergy symptoms including reducing exposure to allergens, medications (antihistamines, steroid nasal sprays, and decongestants), and allergy shots or drops.
If your allergy symptoms are not well-controlled with over the counter medications, it may be time to visit a specialist. An ENT physician will gather a detailed history and complete a thorough examination of the ears, nose, throat, and head. The doctor will also evaluate the sinuses to determine if infection or structural problems (deviated septum, polyps) are causing the symptoms.
In addition, your physician may suggest allergy testing to find the specific allergen that is causing discomfort. In some cases subcutaneous immunotherapy (allergy shots) or sublingual immunotherapy (allergy drops under the tongue). Immunotherapy is a method of treating allergies by desensitizing individuals to allergens over time. ENT doctors are specially trained in the diagnosis and management of allergies.