If you suffer from sneezing, runny nose, watery eyes, and congestion, you may be one of the 40 million people in the United States with seasonal allergies.
“Texas ranks as one of the worst states in the country for allergy sufferers,” says Rajiv Pandit, MD, FACS, an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist on the medical staff at Methodist Dallas Medical Center. “Our relatively mild climate with a fair amount of rain makes it easy for allergens to grow and spread.“
Dr. Pandit says another culprit is the modern environment we live in. By not spending enough time outside, we get less exposure to plants, livestock and substances that help build up our immune system.
Seasonal allergies can be year round, but there are specific allergies for each season, depending on the region where you live. In Texas, the biggest culprits are grass in the spring, cedar elm tree in the summer, ragweed in the fall, and cedar, juniper and evergreen in the winter. Allergens generally die off in the winter snow. Unfortunately for Texans, we don’t get much winter snow!
Three Steps You Can Take
- If you know what you are allergic to, you can strive to avoid it, Dr. Pandit says. For example, sleep with an air purifier to clear the pollens in the room, wear a mask while mowing the lawn, or use nasal irrigation to flush out pollens. Avoidance doesn’t mean limiting your activities, but rather limiting your exposure.
- Taking medication. Over-the-counter medicines such as allergy nasal sprays or pills can prevent the body’s normal reaction.
- See a specialist. If you frequently have allergy symptoms, symptoms last for more than three weeks, or over-the-counter medicines don’t seem to help, it may be time to see a specialist. An ENT physician can determine whether your symptoms can best be treated with prescribed medication, allergy treatments, or an in-office procedure.
Help is Available If You Need It
Allergy sufferers have many treatment options, including allergy shots, and allergy drops that can be taken at home, Dr. Pandit says. Many procedures, such as balloon sinuplasty to treat sinusitis and polyp removal, can be performed in the doctor’s office without general anesthesia. Office procedures are very popular because they allow active treatment, while at the same time allowing patients to resume regular daily activities more quickly than they would with anesthesia.
A Better Way to Think About Allergies
“Many people are discouraged because they believe they have to live with allergy symptoms, but I encourage them to have a different mindset,” Dr. Pandit says. Just like we use preventative care to take care of our teeth, allergies can be managed with preventative care from a specialist, so he encourages people to look at allergies as a lifelong condition that can be controlled through lifestyle modifications and treatment. If patients can do that, Dr. Pandit says they’ll be much more positive and successful in their treatment.