GRAVEYARD OF TISSUES
Tears fall from your eyes and you sniffle, trying desperately to get a good breath. Your head aches, and your throat constricts uncomfortably. Nope, you decide, you're not meant to live life today.
Seasonal allergies can be torturous, and sometimes, deceiving. With symptoms often reminiscent of a head cold, it can be difficult to determine of which you suffer.
Dr. Sadia Habib, MD, internist, of Overlake Hospital Medical Center spoke with REFLECTIONS about the differences between allergy and cold symptoms and what to do when your allergies turn from nuisance to debilitating.
REFLECTIONS: Can allergies affect the severity of a cold?
DR. HABIB: Yes, the symptoms of a cold feel worse with concomitant allergies because both cause similar symptoms. Additionally, allergic rhinitis (inflammation of the nose) can increase the risk of developing a cold.
REFLECTIONS: If you're suffering from both allergies and a cold, how should you medicate?
DR. HABIB: Generally, if you have long-standing allergic rhinitis, you should continue the use of allergy medication when you develop a cold. You may additionally take over-the-counter (OTC) medicine for a cold, but check the ingredients since some cold medicines have antihistamines and decongestants that you may already be taking for your allergies.
REFLECTIONS: There are so many allergy medications on the market. How does a person choose?
DR. HABIB: For allergic rhinitis, you can choose to take any of the available OTC antihistamines, namely loratadine, cetirizine, fexofenadine and diphenhydramine. Most of these are non-drowsy formulations, with the exception of diphenhydramine.
Individual results vary in regards to efficacy. Sometimes you have to try a few different antihistamines to find the one that works for you.
REFLECTIONS: When OTC options don't seem to work, what steps would you recommend someone with severe seasonal allergies take?
DR. HABIB: If OTC medicines are not working, the patient should see his/her primary care provider.
REFLECTIONS: Which patients would you direct toward allergy shots?
DR. HABIB: The allergy shots (subcutaneous immunotherapy; SCIT) are typically used to treat symptoms of allergic rhinitis, allergic conjunctivitis, allergic asthma or any combination of these disorders when there is demonstrable evidence that these symptoms are related to exposure to an allergen.
I refer my patients for this treatment if they have poor response to pharmacotherapy, allergen avoidance, or both, or if they have intolerable side effects to medications. It is also a good choice for young children with allergic rhinitis in whom SCIT may prevent development of asthma.
REFLECTIONS: Can these shots' effectiveness wear off after a patient's body becomes used to the medication?
DR. HABIB: This treatment is typically given for three to five years. During the treatment, response is generally stable. Its effectiveness after stopping the treatment is variable. Studies have shown that symptoms may recur but tend to be less severe than the pretreatment level.
If you have any questions about cold or allergy symptoms, or how you can find relief from either, contact your primary care giver.
Common Fall Allergy Triggers
which can be found in crevices around windows and doors—growing when it's warm inside a home and cold outside—and found in damp piles of leaves.
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