July 19, 2024 The Best Source of News, Culture, Lifestyle for Culver City, Mar Vista, Del Rey, Palms and West Los Angeles

Allergy Season

Spring is upon us – and so is allergy season. Seasonal allergies are common but they can be quite debilitating, affecting our quality of life and daily functioning. They develop when our body’s immune system becomes sensitized and overreacts to certain environmental triggers such as pollen from grass, ragweed, flowers or trees.

Nasal allergies, known as allergic rhinitis in the medical community, affect about 50 million Americans. Those with asthma may have more severe symptoms. Several patients suffering from allergies have come to my office feeling miserable, seeking advice for symptom relief. As someone who suffers from allergies, I can empathize with them.

Common allergy symptoms include:

  • Runny, itchy or stuffy nose (congestion).
  • Sneezing.
  • Itchy, red or watery eyes
    (allergic conjunctivitis).
  • Head congestion or headaches.
  • Fullness in ears

(from blocked Eustachian tubes).

  • Difficulty breathing.
  • Hoarse voice (from post-nasal drip).
  • Fatigue (likely from poor quality sleep due
    to nasal obstruction or congestion).

Some of my geriatric patients with nasal allergies have complained of fullness in ears that worsens their problems with hearing, balance and light-headedness.

Fortunately, there are ways to minimize allergy symptoms by reducing your pollen exposure. These preventive measures include:

Be aware of allergy triggers and avoid them when possible.

  • Stay indoors mid-day and afternoon,
    when pollen counts are usually highest.
  • Clean your carpet, floors, sheets and
    curtains more frequently.
  • Keep windows closed in your home and car.
  • Run air conditioning, if available, in
    your home and car to help remove
    pollen from the air.
  • Avoid going outdoors on windy days with
    high-pollen counts. Plan ahead by checking
    local weather reports.
  • Consider using HEPA filters / air purifiers.
  • Wash your hands after handling pets.
    Consider bathing them more frequently, if
    appropriate, to minimize pollen and
    pet-dander exposure.
  • Change your clothes and shower after
    spending extended time outdoors.

Several over-the-counter medications are available to treat allergy symptoms, including:

  • Oral antihistamines, such as loratadine (Claritin), cetirizine (Zyrtec), and fexofenadine (Allegra). These medications are typically non-sedating and available as generics. They are listed in order of increasing strength and severity of potential side effects, which include dry eyes and mouth and constipation. People respond differently to these medications and should consult with their physician. In general, geriatric patients should avoid oral antihistamines such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl) and Chlorpheniramine, which are sedating and can increase the risk of worsening confusion, memory problems and falls.
  • Nasal saline rinses. They can help relieve mild congestion, prevent crusting and loosen mucus, are safe to use and contain no medications.
  • Nasal corticosteroids (steroid) sprays, such as Nasacort and Flonase. Previously available by prescription only, they now are available over-the-counter. They help reduce nasal inflammation and congestion, but can take one to two weeks to be effective.
  • Artificial tears, which can help with dry, itchy eyes.
  • Other medications include oral and nasal decongestants and various types of eye drops. However, they can have potential side effects and should be discussed with a medical provider before they are used.

Some patients with severe allergies may need to see an allergist for further testing and treatment.

Please see your doctor if you have any questions or concerns about seasonal allergy symptoms.

Further information can be found at the “Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America” website, aafa.org.

Dr. Hong-Phuc Tran is a board-certified geriatrician with the highly regarded UCLA Geriatrics Program in Santa Monica and Westwood. For more information, call 310.319.4371 or visit www.uclahealth.org.

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