It’s the time of year when flowers are blooming and many of us are unfortunately suffering from seasonal allergies. It’s hard to escape this, especially during spring.
More than 50 million Americans suffer from allergies every year, which are the sixth leading cause of chronic illness in the United States. Central Kentucky consistently ranks among some of the worst regions for allergy sufferers.
Allergies result from an overreaction of the immune system to certain substances. These substances, also called allergens, cause sneezing, coughing and itching. Intermittent rain and warm air during spring create ideal conditions for rapid tree growth and pollen production. Seasonal allergy reactions can range from a mild annoyance to a severe disruption in daily life.
Ear, nose and throat specialists commonly see patients suffering from seasonal allergies who are looking for relief. Our training includes the treatment of allergies using both medical and surgical options. During an appointment, allergy sufferers give a detailed medical history, as well as undergo a review of symptoms, potential triggering factors, and a head and neck exam.
Ear, nose and throat specialists utilize several diagnostic tools. One of those is airway endoscopy, which gives us direct vision using a magnified high-quality view of the intranasal and sinus cavities. This commonly performed procedure offers a detailed look and understanding of the problem area.
To further evaluate a patient’s symptoms, ear, nose and throat specialists often rely on diagnostic testing, either through skin or blood testing. The skin test utilizes modified quantitative testing, which is typically done on the forearm and upper arm. For patients that cannot undergo skin testing, a simple blood test can be conducted to check for an allergy. Both types of testing help determine the source of the problem for allergy sufferers.
Patients who have significant positives on either testing may have to undergo aggressive medical therapy to treat allergic disease, including nasal steroids, antihistamines like Zyrtec or Allegra, and leukotriene inhibitors, such as Singulair.
An ear, nose and throat specialist will also discuss ways to reduce exposure to the troublesome allergen, which may include staying indoors, refraining from yard work or gardening, taking a shower immediately after outdoor activities, and keeping your windows closed.
For patients still looking for relief from allergy symptoms, subcutaneous immunotherapy which are often referred to as allergy shots, can also help. Sublingual immunotherapy which are drops under the tongue, may also be recommended by an ear, nose and throat specialist. In more severe cases, surgical therapy may be required to treat nasal obstruction, congestion and pressure.
An ear, nose and throat specialist is able to diagnose a broad list of causes for patients’ symptoms, both allergy and non-allergy. Then he can determine the best approach — medical or surgical. By taking action and getting the help you need, an ear, nose and throat specialist will uncover and treat complaints with a comprehensive approach.
Dr. Ron Shashy is with Saint Joseph ENT Center, part of KentuckyOne Health.