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SALEM COMMUNITY HOSPITAL...Allergy sufferers facing long season

March 25, 2012
Salem News

About 20 percent of Americans suffer from some sort of allergy and for them, this year may be experienced as one of the worst allergy seasons due to a higher than average pollen count.

"People who struggle with asthma and allergies will be dealing with large amounts of pollen this year," said Otolaryngologist Wayland Wong, M.D. "A warmer than normal March has caused plants and trees to blossom early. Pollens are egg-shaped powdery grains released from trees, flowers, and other types of vegetation. They can be carried along by warm breezes or by insects and are designed to fall on other plants of the same type so that they can cross-pollinate. These airborne particles can cause allergic reactions if they land in a person's eyes, nose, lungs or on their skin."

Symptoms

Allergic rhinitis ("hay fever") is the most common of the allergic diseases and refers to seasonal nasal symptoms that are due to pollens. If you are allergic to outdoor pollens, you may only have allergy symptoms at certain times of the year:

Winter and spring, you are probably allergic to tree pollens.

Summer, you are probably allergic to grass and weed pollens.

Late summer and fall, you probably are allergic to ragweed or other weed pollens, such as tumbleweed or sage.

"Allergies are the body's reaction to allergens in the surrounding environment," Dr. Wong added. "These allergens may include dust, pollen, mold spores, pet dander and food. People may be allergic to one or more of these items, so determining the cause of an allergic reaction can be difficult.

"When people are exposed to an allergen to which they are sensitive, their bodies produce histamines, which are chemicals that cause the lining of the nose, sinuses and the eyes to become inflamed as the body attempts to fight off the allergen. When this happens, the person begins sneezing and wheezing, and his or her eyes may start watering and itching. These symptoms last as long as the person is exposed to the allergen.

"Allergic rhinitis is the body's immune system's reaction when it comes into contact with certain allergens, such as pollen or mold," Dr. Wong continued. "When people with allergies inhale these substances, an allergic antibody named IgE, treats them like dangerous invaders. This triggers the release of histamines and other chemicals, which cause the allergic responses of sneezing, dripping nose, congestion or itchiness.

"An allergy sufferer's symptoms can range from mild to severe and include nasal congestion and increased drainage, which can produce complications such as sinus headaches, sinus infections, sore throat and fatigue. Other symptoms can include a loss of sleep due to continued nasal congestion."

Treatment

Allergies can often be treated with a variety of over-the-counter medicines. "Antihistamines are used to relieve the symptoms of allergic rhinitis and other allergies," Dr. Wong said. "They work by blocking the action of histamine, which is produced by the body during an allergic reaction. Decongestants are used to treat nasal congestion and other symptoms associated with colds and allergies. They work by narrowing the blood vessels, leading to the clearing of nasal congestion. Prescription nasal sprays and other medications are also available."

Some other tips for reducing allergy symptoms include: closing the windows, staying inside air-conditioned spaces, and limiting outdoor activity between the hours of 5 a.m. and 10 a.m., when pollen counts are at their highest. It is also a good idea to frequently wash your hair, clothing and any surface that is exposed to pollen.

Allergies or Sinusitis?

"Many people confuse seasonal allergies with sinus infections," Dr. Wong continued. "Both allergy and sinus sufferers may experience a stuffy, painful nose, which is often accompanied by sneezing, coughing or cold-like symptoms. However there are some important differences that need to be addressed for prevention and appropriate treatment."

Sinus infection symptoms may be relieved with over-the-counter decongestants, or through other remedies such as inhaling steam (e.g., in a hot shower) or through the use of a neti-pot or a saline nasal spray to bring relief.

"Without treatment, the sinuses usually clear after about a week," Dr. Wong concluded. "However, the main complication occurs when bacteria multiply within the blocked sinus, causing a sinus infection. This leads to fever and increased pain. Sometimes the overlying skin around the eyes or cheeks becomes red or swollen. This type of bacterial sinus infection needs antibiotics for effective treatment.

"In cases of either chronic sinusitis or recurring episodes of sinusitis, surgery may be needed. An innovative approach for treating sinusitis is balloon sinuplasty technology, which uses minimally invasive sinus catheters to position a tiny balloon into the patient's blocked sinus passageway. The balloon is then inflated to gently restructure and open the sinus passageway, which facilitates normal sinus drainage."

April 26th Sinus Treatment Program

Dr. Wong will be presenting a free educational program about balloon sinuplasty on Thursday, April 26th at the Dutch Village Inn, 150 East State Route 14 in Columbiana. At 6:30 p.m., participants can view displays and complete a written sinus screening assessment, and then Dr. Wong will present the topic of "New Trends in Sinus Treatment" at 7 p.m. Light refreshments will be provided and participants will have an opportunity to register for door prizes that may be helpful in providing sinus symptom relief. Please contact Salem Community Hospital's Marketing department at 330-332-7152, to register for this free program.

Otolaryngologist Wayland Wong, M.D., performs balloon sinuplasty at The Surgery Center at Salem Community Hospital. Dr. Wong is affiliated with Salem Community Hospital's Medical Staff, and his office is located on the second floor of the Salem Medical Center across from Salem Community Hospital, at 2094 East State Street, Suite A, in Salem, 330-337-4900.

 
 

 

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