Seasonal Allergies: How Your Doctor Can Help | Keller, TX Family Medicine Practice

Seasonal Allergies: How Your Doctor Can Help | Keller, TX Family Medicine Practice
April 13, 2017
Seasonal Allergies: How Your Doctor Can Help | Keller, TX Family Medicine Practice

Spring just isn’t about warmer weather and planting colorful flowers in North Texas. It’s a time of runny noses, itchy eyes, sneezing and dreaded allergies.

You doctor can help with the allergies, probably not with the spring planting. Here’s how:

Way of Life in North Texas

Having a family medicine practice in Keller, TX and running a medical clinic in Keller, we see many people suffering from seasonal allergies. In North Texas allergies are a way of life.

Depending on the year and who is providing the ratings, the Dallas-Fort Worth area can rank among the Top 20 worst places to live for people with allergies or near the top in the 20 to 30 range. In the end it doesn’t really matter: Just know living in North Texas can be difficult for those with seasonal allergies.

Part of the blame goes to North Texas’ long growing season and year-round mold problem. The area also has a high ragweed level; Dallas often ranks in the Top 10 locations for pollen count on any given day.

What are Allergies?

Before we get to what a doctor can do for you, the allergy sufferer, we need a brief understanding of what allergies and the symptoms. Allergy causes are usually from:

Skin contact

  • Poison plants
  • Animal scratches
  • Pollen
  • Latex

Injection

  • Bee sting

Ingestion

  • Medication
  • Nuts and shellfish

Inhalation

  • Pollen
  • Dust
  • Mold and mildew
  • Animal dander

If you have allergies, the immune response is oversensitive. When it recognizes an allergen, the immune system responds and chemicals such as histamines are released. These chemicals cause allergy symptoms (see below).

If you have seasonal allergies (also known as hay fever), this system reacts strongly to harmless pollens.

Common Symptoms

When you come in contact with an allergy trigger, the body releases histamine causing allergy symptoms that include:

  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Puffy eyes
  • Tiredness
  • Headache

Where on the body an allergen touches affects the symptoms. For example:

  • Allergens you breathe in often cause a stuffy nose, itchy nose and throat, mucus, cough, and wheezing.
  • Allergens that touch the eyes may cause itchy, watery, red, swollen eyes.
  • Eating something you are allergic to can cause nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, cramping, diarrhea, or a severe, life-threatening reaction.
  • Allergens that touch the skin can cause a skin rash, hives, itching, blisters, or skin peeling.
  • Drug allergies usually involve the whole body and can lead to a variety of symptoms.

If you suffer from seasonal allergies, visit your family practice in Keller, TX or stop by a medical clinic in Keller, Southlake, or nearby Watauga. You will need to work with a doctor to figure out what you are allergic to.

Allergy Journal or Log

We tell everybody who comes to a family medicine practice or medical clinic in Keller to keep an allergy journal or log because it is not easy to know what is causing allergy symptoms. There are so many possibilities and variables.

When you start sneezing and your nose runs, write down what you were doing when symptoms started. If paper and pen are not handy, jot a note in your smartphone (if you have one). Learning what causes your symptoms can help you avoid allergy triggers. Take note of:

  • Time of day
  • Weather conditions
  • Location (geographic and whether indoors or outdoors)
  • When symptoms occur and how long they last.
  • Do they get worse when you’re around pets? Cigarette smoke?
  • What makes your symptoms better?
  • What types of treatments have you tried?
  • Are you suffering a lack of sleep?
  • Do you experience exercise limitations?
  • Do you have difficulty focusing?

Your doctor in the Keller family medicine practice can do tests to find out what causes your allergies. The most common is a skin prick test. A small amount of a possible allergy trigger is placed on your skin, which is gently pricked to allow it to go under the surface. If there is swelling or redness, you’re allergic.

Doctors will ask a lot of questions, so keeping the journal or log noted above is important. His or her questions can include:

  • When your symptoms happen, how long do they last?
  • Do your symptoms come and go throughout the year or are they year-round?
  • Do your symptoms appear when you’re outdoors or indoors when you clean the home?
  • Do they get worse when you’re around pets (your’s or a neighbor’s)?
  • Do you or anyone in the family smoke?
  • Do symptoms keep you from sleeping at night or doing things you want to do?
  • What types of treatments have you tried?
  • What allergy drugs are you taking now
  • What other medications are you taking, including prescription and over-the-counter drugs, vitamins, and herbal supplements? Drugs often interact with each other and many people are unaware of reactions.
  • What kind of heating and cooling system is in the home? How often is it maintained?
  • Do you have any other health conditions like asthma or high blood pressure?
  • Do you have problems with your sense of smell or taste?
  • Do you get better on the weekend and worse when you go back to work?

Working with a doctor at a medical clinic in Keller or at a family practice is a two-way street. You, as the allergy sufferer, should ask questions as well, including:

  • What symptoms should I be concerned about? When should I call your office?
  • What medications or other treatments are available? What are the benefits and side effects of each?
  • Will I need allergy shots?
  • Should I take medicine all the time or only when my symptoms get worse?
  • Should I stop outdoor exercise?
  • What types of plants are best to put in my yard?
  • How can I tell the difference between allergies and a cold or the flu?
  • Will a change in diet help?

When to See a Doctor

You don’t have to make an appointment at a family medicine practice in Keller or stop by a medical clinic in Keller every time you have a runny nose, cough or watery eyes. But if they persist for at least three months or make it hard for you to work or sleep, make an appointment.

Also make an appointment if:

  • You’ve tried over-the-counter drugs and still need more relief.
  • You get a lot of sinus infections, headaches, stuffy nose, or ear infections.
  • You have other health problems such as heart disease, thyroid disease, diabetes, glaucoma, high blood pressure, enlarged prostate, liver disease, or kidney disease. If you do, it may not be safe to treat allergies on your own with over-the-counter drugs.

Treatment Options

Your doctor will recommend a treatment based on what you are allergic to and how severe your allergies are.

Allergy Shots

Allergy shots are recommended if you can’t avoid allergy triggers and your symptoms are hard to control.

You will get regular injections of the allergen. Each dose is slightly larger than the last until a maximum dose is reached. These shots do not work for everybody and you will have to visit the doctor often.

Sublingual immunotherapy treatment (SLIT) is possible instead of shots. Medicine is put under the tongue and may help for grass and ragweed allergies.

Medications

There are several types of medications to prevent and treat allergies. Which medicine your doctor recommends depends on the type and severity of your symptoms, age, and overall health.

  • Antihistamines are available over-the-counter and by prescription. They are available in many forms, including: capsules and pills, eye drops, injection, liquid, and nasal spray.
  • Corticosteroids are anti-inflammatory medications and are available in many forms, including: creams and ointment for the skin, eye drops, nasal spray, lung inhaler. People with severe allergic symptoms may be prescribed corticosteroid pills or injections for short periods.
  • Decongestants help relieve a stuffy nose. Do not use decongestant nasal spray for more than several days because they can cause a rebound effect and make the congestion worse. Decongestants in pill form do not cause this problem. People with high blood pressure, heart problems, or prostate enlargement should use decongestants with caution.
  • Another medicine includes leukotriene inhibitors that block the substances that trigger allergies. People with asthma and indoor and outdoor allergies may be prescribed these medicines.
  • Severe allergic reactions (anaphylaxis) need to be treated with a medicine called epinephrine. It can be life-saving when given right away. If you use epinephrine, call 911 and go straight to the hospital.

Avoidance

Another “treatment” possibility is simply avoiding the allergy triggers.

  • To reduce allergy triggers in the home, install furnace filters or other are filters or purifiers.
  • Dehumidifiers dry the air and prevent mold.
  • If you have pets, don’t let them into the bedroom or on furniture (easier said than done).
  • Pay attention to pollen levels in the Keller, Southlake, and Watauga area and avoid going outside when levels are high.