Environmental Allergies

Environmental Allergies

Nasal allergies, also known as seasonal or perennial allergic rhinoconjunctivitis is a condition that affects millions of people each year and is due to an individual's immune system abnormally reacting to airborne pollen (tree, grass, and weed), animal allergens, dust, mold and sometimes cockroaches.

The resulting symptoms include runny nose, sneezing, itchy eyes, itchy nose and throat, nasal congestion, drainage down the throat, itchy or watery eyes and sometimes headache or facial pressure.

Testing

Skin testing for allergens is performed on the back or arms. If the patient is allergic, a hive will develop at the site of each allergen tested. The result is measured within twenty minutes. Blood tests can also be performed to test for allergies.

Treatment

Treatments include avoidance, medication and immunotherapy. Avoidance entails eliminating exposure to the allergen. Pollen avoidance is limited but includes avoiding outdoor activity on high pollen days, washing off after outside activity to remove pollen from the body, keeping windows closed during time high pollen count, wearing a mask and goggles when doing yard work or gardening, and utilizing an air purifier in the home to remove pollen from the indoor environment. Animal allergen avoidance includes removing animals in the home and minimizing exposure to them.

Dust avoidance includes washing sheets and bedding once a week in hot water to kill dustEnvironmental Allergies mites and to use protective covers over pillows, mattresses and box springs to reduce contact. Keeping humidity low in the home and removing items in the home that can harbor dust mites are helpful as well. Mold avoidance entails preventing mold growth in the home particularly in damp areas and minimizing exposure to outdoor mold. Medication treatment includes oral antihistamines and steroid/antihistamine nasal sprays.

Eye drops are also used for symptoms of eye allergy. Immunotherapy involves training the immune system to become tolerant to airborne allergens by gradually administering the allergen through injections over a period of three to five years. This treats the underlying problem, helps improve symptoms and reduces the need for medication. This method of treatment is generally used in patients with severe environmental allergies who do not respond well to typical medication and avoidance strategies. The presence of allergic asthma and medication side effects are also reasons for considering immunotherapy.