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Sniffling, sneezing, coughing

PacMed doctor offers pro tips on dealing with allergy season

An increase in climate temperatures means allergy season is starting sooner and lasting longer. File photo

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April showers bring May flowers. The sing-song reminder rings true as dazzling blooms begin to sprout, blanketing the ground in hues of every color. For some, this is a time of suffering as allergies begin to piggy-back off the aesthetic beauty offered by the flourishing plant life. Don't fret -- Pacific Medical Centers' Allergy/Immunology physician John Knutson, MD, has insight for those who struggle with allergies: the itchy-eyed, red-nosed, and throat-tickled individuals who are a slave to the flora in more ways than one.

What are the most common allergens that people tend to struggle with?

The most common allergies develop to pollens; this includes trees, grass and weeds. It can also include house dust mites, animals and molds. Allergies can be seasonal with pollens or perennial with other allergy triggers. With overall increase in climate temperature, pollen seasons are starting sooner, lasting longer and the overall amount of pollen is increasing. This means many of us may be facing more allergy symptoms and triggers than before. Allergy symptoms include watery and itchy eyes, nasal congestion, sneezing, and runny nose. Occasionally, postnasal drip and a cough will develop. These symptoms will vary in intensity depending on the severity of the person's allergy.

How are allergies developed?

Allergies are an inherited trait with tendency to have over-reactive immune response to typically harmless substances. Allergic rhinitis (allergies) are increasing worldwide for unclear reasons.

What are the most successful ways in which people can treat their allergies?

The most effective treatment for allergic rhinitis is avoidance of triggers. Allergy testing can help identify these specific triggers; however, avoidance of triggers can be difficult. I recommend to my patients to limit their exposure to the identified allergen -- whether pollen, animal, dust mite, mold, or other -- as much as possible. The use of non-sedating antihistamines and topical nasal corticosteroid sprays are now over-the-counter and can be helpful. There are other prescription medications that can be effective and allergy immunotherapy (allergy shots) can be very helpful when other measures fail.

What advice can you offer to military personnel who are significantly burdened by their allergies?

Military personnel should seek appropriate treatment of allergic rhinitis since allergies can affect job performance and can disrupt sleep. Some over-the-counter medications can also cause sedation. Deployment to different areas can cause new or increased exposures which may make symptoms worsen.

Is there anything else you would like readers to know about allergies and treating them efficiently?

The difference between a cold and allergies: What distinguishes viral colds from allergies is that the symptoms of a cold tend to develop gradually while symptoms of allergies have a more abrupt onset. Additionally, cold symptoms will usually go away after three to seven days, whereas allergy symptoms will continue as long as you are exposed to your allergen. If you are struggling with allergies, consider talking with your primary care provider. They can help determine if you may need to see an allergist/immunologist to address your symptoms or identify triggers.

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