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Allergies

As Spring season ends and Summer begins, many of us have already struggled with seasonal allergies.  Sneezing, runny nose, and itchy eyes are common ways the body reacts to allergens such as pollen, pet dander, and dust.  While it’s frustrating dealing with allergies, there are a few ways to help these symptoms.  Over the counter Claritin/Loratidine pills taken daily or nasal sprays like Nasacort or Flonase are strongly recommended for patients whose symptoms interfere with their quality of life.  Here’s a helpful hint for using nasal sprays: put ‘nose to toes’ and inhale as you spray.  If the pump spray is used correctly, the spray should not drip from your nose or down the back of your throat.  Also, try to quit smoking and avoid irritants like air pollution to give your eyes, nose, and lungs a rest.

Other common allergies include that can cause sneezing, runny nose, or itching include:

  1. Pollens and outdoor molds come and go depending on the weather and time of year. To avoid pollen and outdoor molds you can find out when the pollen and mold counts are high in your area and avoid going outside when pollen and mold counts are high. Indoor molds need moisture to grow, so to control indoor mold you can fix all water leaks and damp areas or use a dehumidifier to keep your basement dry.
  2. Dust mites are tiny bugs that cannot be seen. They live in places that collect dust. Pillows, mattresses, and carpets usually have thousands of dust mites living in them. Cover your pillows and mattresses with vinyl or semipermeable covers. Wash your sheets, pillowcases, and comforters every 1-2 weeks in hot water.
  3. Household pets are a common source of allergies. Keep pets out of the bedroom and off the carpet and upholstered furniture or consider re-homing your pet.
  4. Some people are allergic to cockroaches. To get rid of cockroaches, you should keep the kitchen very clean and avoid leaving food or drink out. If you use pesticides, read the directions carefully to avoid toxic/poisonous exposure to children and pets.

Usually these common allergies cause moderate reactions such as rashes or hives.  These are itchy and uncomfortable, but they can be relieved with over-the-counter anti-histamines such as Benadryl.  Just be careful when taking Benadryl because it can make you drowsy- do not drive or operate heavy machinery when taking Benadryl.  In the future, avoid the “trigger” or cause.

Food Allergies affect all ages. Children and infants are more likely to be allergic to eggs, milk, peanuts, soy products, tree nuts (such as walnuts), and wheat. Adults are more likely to be allergic to fish, peanuts, shellfish, and tree nuts. The good news: if you have food allergies as a child, there’s a good chance you’ll outgrow most of them by the time you become an adult. A good way to prevent an allergic reaction is to read labels carefully so you can avoid exposure.

Don’t forget when you’re outside this summer to prevent bug bites by using insect repellent and wearing protective clothing.  To treat bug bites and stings at home, dermatologists recommend the following tips:

  1. For painful bites, such as a bee sting, take an over-the-counter painkiller, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Always follow the directions on the label and use the correct dose.
  2. For bites that itch, apply an ice pack or an over-the-counter anti-itch cream, such as hydrocortisone. Another option is to take an over-the-counter oral antihistamine.
  3. To reduce swelling, apply an ice pack to the bite.

With all allergies, if you ever experience a severe reaction such as eyes, lips, mouth or throat begin to swell and it becomes difficult to breathe, this is a medical emergency!  Seek help from the closest ER!  In the future, you may be prescribed an Epi pen, which is a single shot you can carry wherever you go in case this happens again.

Nicole Mette is a third-year medical student at Mercer University School of Medicine. She is also an allergy sufferer.

This article was originally published in the Farmers and Consumers Market Bulletin Mercer Medical Moment on Wednesday, April 24, 2019.