It's the height of allergy season and experts have discovered that spring allergy season is starting earlier and lasting longer each year. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), this year might be one of the toughest for people with nasal allergies. So what can you do to treat and prevent allergy symptoms? And how do you know if it's allergies, a cold or the flu? Dr. Linda Dahl, ENT and Mike Tringle of the AAFA answer these questions and more.
Dr. Linda Dahl is a board certified otolaryngologist and surgeon specializing in the evaluation and treatment of adult and pediatric patients.
Mike Tringale, M.S.M.: Mike is the director of External Affairs at Asthma and Allergy foundation of America.
With a cold you wake up in the morning and feel congested, have aches, you may or may not have a fever, and when you blow your nose you see discolored mucus. As opposed to allergies where you have clear mucus, the symptoms may not be as severe, and the symptoms tend to last longer. Cold and flu symptoms tend to last 3- 10 days. With allergies you can have symptoms for months or even year around.
There are many natural solutions available. What I recommend to most of my patients, if not all of them is a saline rinse and Water Pik makes a wonderful line of sinus rinses that are very easy to use. They work by clearing the mucus from the lining of the sinuses so that the sinuses can heal themselves naturally.
Sinus wash clears the lining of the sinuses from all of the matter and particles that could cause an inflammatory reaction. Your sinus lining is actually a filter so everything you breathe in first goes in through the lining of the sinuses; your nose hairs called cilia act like projectiles that move debris out of the way. When the matter and particles land on the lining of the sinuses - if they sit there too long, they can cause a large inflammatory response and sinus rinse works by clearing all allergens out of the way so your sinuses can function naturally.
Sinus wash does not sting or hurt when you use it. Be sure to mix the contents of the saline well to prevent the solution from being too strong for the lining of your sinuses. If the contents are not properly mixed, in this case, it could cause some stinging.
Anyone can use a sinus wash. For children, it's often easier to use the Waterpik® SinuSense™ Water Pulsator because it does the work for them. The manual devices will work well for all other ages.
Respiratory health affects millions of people in the US. 35 million Americans have nasal allergies, 70 million Americans get the common flu each year, and 300 million Americans get a cold each year. It affects every family in the US. Additionally her are over 50 million Americans that have allergies of all types. 20 million Americans have asthma so you can see it's a major issue of public health.
Allergies can be triggered by a number of things for many people; both indoor and outdoor. Starting with the outdoors, spring time is when mother nature lets go of tree pollen. Tree pollen is a major trigger for millions of people with nasal allergies. When summer rolls around it's really grass pollen. In the fall it's primarily weed pollen. But even in the winter time people aren't safe. There are allergens in homes such as dust mites, cockroaches, mold, and pet dander that also trigger allergies. This is why it's important to be aware of what triggers your allergies and get treated for it as well.
Allergic disease is pretty uniform. It's a disease of the immune system that causes an overreaction of certain substances that to a healthy body wouldn't create a reaction. What differs from place to place in the US are the actual triggers. Different trees might pollinate in certain parts of the country that don't pollinate in others. You might have tropical plants in Florida and Hawaii that you don't find in New England, but for the most part, thing like rag weed, maple, oak, birch, grass- these are common no matter where you go in the US including Alaska and Hawaii. So there are similar symptoms for these types of triggers and many of the treatments are similar as well.
Yes, they can be inherited from family member to family member. Parents who have children with allergies; if both parents have allergies they are more likely to pass the allergic condition to their offspring and so forth. In addition, the environment we live in is getting a little bit more polluted. Not just with your typical pollution like smoke and smog, but plant matter pollution. There is more pollen in the air, cat dander in the air; more mouse and rodent feces there is more cockroach matter in the homes. As we live in a more industrialized, modern society we are confronted with more and more allergens in our breathing space. These are theories that make people try to understand why allergies are on the rise.
Part of the reason we are seeing a rise in allergy prevalence is because we've done a really good job in increasing allergy awareness. A lot of people in the past were symptomatic, but they were undiagnosed so many people experienced the coughing, wheezing and sneezing, runny eyes, itchy skin or the scratchy throat and these are all symptoms of many diseases including cold and flu. So as we've learned more and more about allergies, we've been able to distinguish what is an allergy vs. what is a cold or flu? We are getting better at diagnosing it, but that's only part of the problem. We also know that around the world allergies are on the rise. The allergy prevalence has more than doubled in the past 30 years and researchers are still trying to understand why, but no matter how many people have it, there's still some really simple ways you can manage and treat your disease if you get the information you need.
Allergy prevention is a very important part of allergy care. It comes in many different forms. Even before you take an allergy medication, an eye drop or a nasal spray, having really good sinus health is critical. There are some preventative things you can do that are non- medicinal such as sinus rinses. Water Pik has a great example; they have a product called SinuSense™, which helps to clear the nasal passages really allowing for better overall sinus and nasal health. This will help to prevent any serious allergy, cold, or flu symptoms down the road.