springtime again, and along with the sunshine and flourishing flowers
comes the release of the feared warm weather irritant: pollen. It's
allergy season, and if you're suffering from itchy eyes, a runny nose,
incessant sneezing and a scratchy throat, you are not alone. An
estimated 35 million Americans endure seasonal allergies each year,
making it the most common of allergic diseases. Allergy symptoms can
be minor — sneezing and itching — to severe — asthma attacks
and hives. Some allergic reactions, like anaphylactic
shock, can even
be life-threatening. While over-the-counter and prescription
medicines can help eliminate allergy symptoms, sometimes the best way
to avoid annoying allergy attacks is to remain indoors as much as
On Wednesday, May 19, 2010, allergist Lily Pien, MD, of the Allergy and Immunology, Respiratory Institute at the Cleveland Clinic, held a health chat discussing vasomotor rhinitis, elevated eosinophils, allergy tests, seasonal allergies, nasal drip, different types of allergic reactions, common symptoms and the helpfulness of medications including Allegra, antihistamines, nasal sprays and nasal decongestants.
Here are 10 questions posed by MedHelp members during the chat and answers provided by Dr. Pien. (Questions and answers have been edited for clarity. Read the full allergies health chat archives here).
Can you develop seasonal allergies as an adult? A lot of people tell me they have allergies for the first time. If yes, why does this happen?
Dr. Lily Pien:
Yes, it is possible to develop seasonal allergies as an adult. The manifestations of clinical allergies are a complex set of interactions between immunology, physiology, genetics and environment.
As my allergies have worsened over the years, so have the dark circles or "allergy shiners" and bags. I am currently taking Allegra, which helps with other symptoms, but not so much with my eyes. Any treatments or tips for that?
Dr. Lily Pien:
Allegra is a good medication for allergic rhinitis. Nasal steroid sprays are also considered beneficial. Allergic shiners can be related to nasal congestion, we sometimes further evaluate with a simple CT scan of the sinuses.
My 18-year-old son has allergies but his main problem is year-round, continuous, non-stop post nasal drip with large amounts of mucus dripping down his throat, causing him coughing spells and constant nose blowing with no end in sight. Is there anything that can lessen mucus discharge?
Dr. Lily Pien:
I would suggest determining what allergies your son might have. Try to identify any triggers or exposures that cause nasal symptoms immediately. This can be accomplished through skin testing by a board-certified allergist. If you believe your son's symptoms are allergy-related, over-the-counter antihistamines may be helping in controlling some of the nasal symptoms.
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