Medical Minutes: Answers to frequently asked questions

Allergies

Kristin Schiller

PA-C

Question: What are Allergies?

Our bodies are exposed to non-harmful substances like dust, pollen and dander. Some people’s immune systems recognize these non-harmful substances as harmful and activate an immune response. Symptoms of allergies include; irritated and itchy eyes, runny and itchy nose, nasal congestion, scratchy and sore throat, frequent throat clearing and feeling run down. Allergy symptoms and common cold symptoms have a lot of overlap and sometimes it’s hard to tell them apart. Common cold symptoms do not typically last more than 2 weeks, so if you have a sore throat and runny nose this long it’s a good bet that allergies are to blame.

If it’s just allergies why do I feel sick?

Our immune system’s job is to protect us from foreign invaders like bacteria and viruses. When your immune system sees a harmful virus, bacteria or allergen it kicks into action and causes a wide range of symptoms like fever, swollen lymph nodes, headaches and body aches. You feel lousy because your immune system is working.

What can I do to help my allergy problems?

Minimizing your exposure to allergens is helpful. Keep your home clean and dusted.

First line allergy treatments include nasal steroid sprays and anti-histamine medications like Benadryl, Zyrtec, Claritin and Xyzal. When using a nasal steroid spray, spray into each nostril while taking a normal breath. Snorting causes the medication to travel too far where it is less effective. Remember, if you taste it you waste it! Allergy medications need to be taken daily for several days before effects are usually noticed.

If you are still symptomatic, there are additional prescription allergy medications that your health care provider can recommend.

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