If you’re like many people, the beauty of spring can give way to the discomfort of allergies. The temperatures warm up, the flowers bloom, and your nose starts to tickle. Or even worse you suffer from debilitating sinus congestion, headaches, and cough.
In this blog, we will explore how pollen triggers allergies, look at the most common allergy symptoms, and share how an otolaryngologist (an ear, nose, and throat specialist, or ENT) can help diagnose and treat your allergies.
How Does Pollen Trigger Allergies?
Pollen is a fine powder produced by plants during their reproductive cycle. For most of us, pollen is an annoyance, covering our cars and patio furniture in yellow-green dust. For others, pollen triggers an allergic reaction in people when inhaled.
According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, approximately 81 million people in the U.S. were diagnosed with seasonal allergic rhinitis (hay fever) in 2021. This equals around 26% (67 million) of adults and 19% (14 million) of children.
Allergies are a type of immune response that occurs when the body overreacts to an unknown substance. The immune system responds by producing antibodies, which are specific to the allergen. The antibodies trigger a chemical reaction by releasing histamine, which causes the blood vessels to dilate causing inflammation and an increase in mucus production. This, in turn, causes allergy symptoms.
What Are Common and Less Typical Allergy Symptoms?
Seasonal allergy symptoms typically include:
- runny nose
- nasal congestion
- itchy, watery eyes
However, allergy sufferers may also experience chronic sinus problems, post-nasal drip, head congestion, vocal hoarseness, eczema (skin allergies), recurring ear infections, hearing loss, dizziness, chronic cough, and asthma. Even stomach and intestinal problems, as well as excessive fatigue, can point to allergies.
These symptoms can move beyond irritation, to the point of causing great physical discomfort and diminishing one’s enjoyment of the outdoors.
How Are Allergies Diagnosed?
Because so many allergy symptoms are centered around the ears, nose (and sinuses), and throat, an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist is skilled in the diagnosis and treatment of allergies.
An ENT can study the patient’s history and use a physical examination to make an initial diagnosis of allergies. However, a skin or blood test can identify the specific allergens that are triggering a response.
Getting Relief from the Discomfort of Allergies
There are several treatments available for allergies, ranging from over-the-counter antihistamines to prescription medications. Antihistamines work by blocking the effects of histamine, reducing inflammation, and relieving symptoms such as itching, sneezing, and runny nose. Decongestants can also help to relieve congestion and reduce swelling in the nasal passages.
For people with severe allergies, allergy shots may be recommended. Allergy shots, also known as immunotherapy, work by gradually exposing the immune system to small amounts of the allergen over time. This helps the immune system build up a tolerance to the allergen, reducing the severity of the allergic reaction.
Stop Suffering From Seasonal Allergies
You don’t have to sit on the sidelines and let life pass you by this spring. An ear, nose, and throat specialist can help you get to the bottom of what is triggering your symptoms and help you get relief.
To make an appointment at our offices in Memphis or Barlett, click here. We even offer same-day appointments to get you on the path to healing as quickly as possible!