GREENEVILLE -- Spring brings showers, flowers and – inevitably – seasonal allergies.
Dr. Sharon Duke, medical director of Takoma Adventist Hospital’s emergency department, said she is already seeing an increased number of patients in the Emergency Department complaining of allergy symptoms.
“Every cloud has a silver lining,” Duke notes with a smile. “The silver lining is the beautiful spring weather, but the cloud is the allergies that go with it!”
Seasonal allergy symptoms include “cold-like” symptoms that persist for more than 10-11 days, she noted. Allergy sufferers might also have clear runny noses, sneeze a lot, and have itchy eyes and noses. “Some people even have itching in their outer ears,” she said.
Others have “draining” down the back of the throat from the nose and sinuses, congestion, cough and mild headaches. “These are all reactions to pollens blowing in the wind,” she said. “The throat can become sore from the drainage and cough. Patients may also have some wheezing and shortness of breath from the lungs being sensitive to the allergens.”
In comparison, upper respiratory infections or colds are caused by various viruses and only last 10-11 days, unless re-infected. Drainage can vary from clear to yellowish. “Patients will sneeze, have drainage and cough, but won’t have itchy eyes, nose or ears,” she said. “And, there’s usually no wheezing unless they have a history of asthma and/or smoking.”
Smokers and those who live with smokers are more prone to both allergies, and upper respiratory infections and colds, Duke noted.
“Patients come to our Emergency Department with symptoms they think are a sinus infection or strep throat, but most turn out to be allergies,” she explained. “If you’re not sure, it’s good to be checked.”
She noted that spring and fall are the peak times for allergies to surface “due to all the blooming trees and plants.”
“Symptoms usually disappear when the plants stop blooming, only to reappear again the next year or season,” she said.
Seasonal allergies can be treated with antihistamines to block the allergic response, and decongestants to treat the symptoms (congestion and drainage). Both are available with or without a prescription, she said.
“Both prescription and non-prescription medicines for allergies work the same,” Duke said. “The prescription medicine is just longer active, which means you don’t have to take it as often.”
If the medication isn’t working, then allergy sufferers might consider going to a specialist, she said. “They will start you on weekly injections,” Duke explained. “I would recommend this method when all else has failed.”
Duke shared a few tips to help keep allergies under control:
· Quit smoking, or don’t let anyone smoke in your house or car.
· Wear a mask while mowing the lawn to keep pollen and grass clippings out of your lungs.
· Keep pets, particularly cats, outside.
· Switch to hardwood floors instead of carpeting.
· Change linens weekly – daily is even better – to prevent dust mites from aggravating your condition.
· Keep windows closed, and utilize air conditioning to cool your home and car.
For more information on spring allergies or any other medical condition, please contact Takoma Adventist Hospital’s Emergency Department at 636-2360.