With the onset of spring, those sensitive to tree pollen and other spring allergens are at risk for becoming miserable, with stuffy noses, watery eyes, and sinus congestion; the latter can often lead to a secondary sinus infection, requiring antibiotic therapy.
According to Dr. John A. Drummond, Infectious Disease Specialist, “the sinus passages may be likened to rivers as opposed to ponds. If a river is flowing smoothly, the water stays clean; build a dam and the water stagnates and becomes filthy.” Sinuses are similar: if air flow is unimpaired, congestion does not develop.
But if one is sensitive to tree pollen in the spring (autumn allergies are more likely due to ragweed and goldenrod pollen), the pink mucous membranes lining the nose and sinus passages become red, angry and swollen, shutting off air flow inwardly and drainage of secretions outwardly, creating the “stuffy head” discomfort. Drummond recommends a few tips for relief:
- Relief may be found with the use of over-the-counter, once-daily, non-sedating anti-histamines, such as generic Claritin or Zyrtec, easily found in your local drugstore
- Utilize saline nasal sprays to help keep sinus passages open and moist. These include the popular “Ocean” spray and a netti-pot or Neilmed saline wash. Cortisone-based nasal sprays are also very helpful, but require a prescription.
- Decongestants are also useful in the short term. Sudafed or its generic equivalents, are available without prescription but require your signature at the pharmacy. Contrary to popular belief, they do not cause drowsiness, but may induce insomnia if taken close to bedtime, and in high doses may raise blood pressure.
- For allergy sufferers who enjoy gardening or springtime yard work, a simple surgical mask worn while outdoors (available at low cost from a hardware store or drug store) may help to prevent onset of symptoms.
- With any type of weakening of the immune system, including an allergy attack, drink plenty of fluids and get adequate rest. If you believe your allergy has turned into a full-blown infection (signs may include discolored nasal discharge, a fever or extreme pressure in the head and sinus cavities), visit your doctor who may confirm a diagnosis of bacterial sinus infection and prescribe an appropriate antibiotic.
If you suffer from seasonal allergy attacks several times a year, consider allergy testing and immune therapy, which may include allergy shots.
According to Dr. David Redding, year-round allergens can be as problematic: “Some of the biggest offenders include cat & dog dander, dust mites, mold and even cock-roach allergens.” Specialists like Redding Allergy & Asthma Center (www.reddingallergyatl.com) on Howell Mill Road offer customized plans for diagnosing and treating allergic diseases.
In addition, consider changing your home air filtration system. Allergens located within the home can be just as problematic as allergens outside. Chris Adolph at Empire Heating and Air (www.empirehvac.com), recommends that a standard one inch filter be changed every 30 days, at minimum (versus every 90 days as labeled on packages).
If possible, Adolph recommends using the upgraded 4 inch pleated media filter which catches some of the smallest particles in the air. Adolph attributes 20 to 30 percent of Empire’s service calls in the winter and summer to using a dirty filter.
For severe allergy sufferers, Adolph suggests upgrading to a HEPA filter (the technology utilized in most hospitals). General upgrades for air filtration like HEPA can range from $500 to a couple thousand dollars, based on the systems and specifications you chose for your home. Keeping your air clean indoors – particularly where you sleep – will make a huge impact on relief for allergy sufferers this season.
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