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Allergies Got You Down? Here Are Tips from a Doc/Mom

By Dr. Amanda Magrini

‘Tis the season to be snotty! Spring has sprung, and with the abundance of snow and water we have had this winter, there are a LOT of things growing and blooming. This means more pollen for you and your poor noses, all season long.

allergiesBut why do people have allergies? A question I get frequently is “I have never had any allergy problems, why do I have them now?

Allergies are your body’s response to different things with which it makes contact. Whether it is pollen floating in the air that is inhaled into your nose and mouth, or things like nickel or soaps that come into contact with your skin and cause irritation/allergies, or foods you eat — your body can identify them at any time in your life as “enemies” and forms antibodies to them. This means that when you get exposed to whatever the “enemy”  is — tree pollens, sagebrush, molds, peanuts, etc. — your body sends an army of white blood cells to the area to attack, which equates to a stuffy nose, red, itchy eyes with pollens, or in the case of peanuts/foods — rashes, swelling of the throat, shortness of breath, etc., considering it’s going through your whole system.

What to do about all this?

With foods, of course being tested to confirm what you are allergic to is important, and carrying an epi pen in case you are exposed is a must if you have severe reactions like throat swelling or shortness of breath.

With seasonal allergies, there are some options!

First of all, when at home, don’t leave windows or doors open during your peak allergy season — it lets all that pollen in to land on your couches, carpet, beds and you will continue to be exposed and suffer. Although there isn’t a lot of evidence for it, we also recommend pillow and mattress allergen covers to continue to avoid those pesky pollens from infiltrating your stuff. And wash them in really hot water every two weeks to keep pollen out! If you spend some time outdoors during these seasons, make sure you shower before you get ready for bed for the same reason — you want to get all the pollens off your skin and not transfer them all over the stuff in your house.

Nasal sinus rinses (there are all types of these out there) can also help rinse away those pollens from your nose/sinuses and give you some relief as well.

But what about local honey? Unfortunately, it just doesn’t really work. It’s great for suppressing a cough, but there just isn’t enough pollen in it, or necessarily the right pollens, to reduce your allergy symptoms.

If you know when your allergies usually occur, starting an antihistamine like generic Claritin, Allegra, or Zyrtec. Don’t pay for name brand, it’s really not necessary. Begin taking these two weeks before the pollens spike to help stop the symptoms before they start. You can check this site for an up-to-date listing of active pollens in our area.

Generally speaking, Zyrtec is the most potent antihistamine, but it can cause some sleepiness. Also, alternating between the three different types of allergy meds every three months in the case of severe/year-round allergies can help, as sometimes with continued regular use, these medications can be less effective. Also, if you have any blood pressure problems, do NOT take “D” medications — these can spike your blood pressure and cause other problems.

If this isn’t enough, you can use fluticasone/triamcinolone/budesonide nasal spray. These are topical steroids, NOT absorbed into your blood stream, that can reduce irritation in the nose and sinuses and help with that annoying congestion/plugged-up feeling. Do NOT use Afrin — please just don’t do it! It is a terrible medicine, and if you use it for more than a few days, you will be absolutely MISERABLE trying to get off of it — the inside of your nose will swell up worse than it was before, and there will be nothing you can do for at least a day or two.

There are too many over-the-counter allergy eye drops to list, but here’s a link that has the most highly recommended for those red, itchy eyes.

Last but not least: If you have terrible allergies and nothing else is working, see your local allergy doctor for allergy testing and to see if allergy shots may be good for you. It’s a long haul depending on what you are allergic to, but for those of you who suffer all year long or have severe symptoms, this may be a great option for you!

Magrini, AmandaAbout Dr. Amanda Magrini

Amanda Magrini, MD, is a board-certified family medicine physician at Northern Nevada Medical Group’s Los Altos location in Sparks. She completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Nevada, Reno and her medical training at the University of Nevada School of Medicine. Dr. Magrini has practiced family medicine for seven years, including residency, and enjoys her specialty, because she likes taking care of the whole family, from newborns to grandparents. She likes preventative medicine, helping people take care of themselves and the relationships she is able to form with her patients. Dr. Magrini grew up in Sparks, NV and likes that it is a safe place to live with great educational opportunities and beautiful scenery. She thinks Northern Nevada is a great place to raise a family and looks forward to raising her own children here. In her spare time, she enjoys outdoor activities such as hiking, biking, camping, boating, running and traveling the world. Dr. Magrini is also very close with her family; she is married to her high school sweetheart and values spending time with him and the rest of her family. Disclosure: “The author is a licensed physician practicing with Northern Nevada Medical Group, but all opinions expressed are solely the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Northern Nevada Medical Group or any other affiliates of Universal Health Services, Inc.”

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