Each year, millions of Americans suffer from allergies that lead to sneezing, nasal congestion, runny nose, watery and itchy eyes, postnasal drip, and headaches. CornerStone Ear, Nose & Throat can evaluate patients to help determine if they actually have allergies, and if so, what allergens are causing their symptoms. We can then develop a plan to manage your allergies either with medications or, if indicated, medications in combination with allergy immunotherapy treatment to desensitize and change how your immune system responds to those allergens. This can minimize or lessen the need to use medications to control your symptoms.
Allergies Or The Common Cold?
Many people confuse allergies with the common cold. They have some of the same symptoms, but there are several signs that can help you determine which condition you may have.
Allergy Symptoms Only
- Watery, itchy eyes
- Itchy ears and throat
- Persistent nasal congestion
Cold Symptoms Only
- Body aches
- Sore throat
- Nasal symptoms lasting 1-2 weeks
Symptoms of Both
- Runny nose
- Stuffy nose
Causes Of Allergies
When an allergy-causing substance, known as an allergen, enters the body, the immune system can cause a series of physical reactions, including blood vessel dilation and the production of inflammatory substances or mediators, such as histamine. Histamine causes common allergy symptoms such as itchy and watery eyes, sneezing, stuffy nose, and a runny nose. Common respiratory allergens are pollens, which include trees, grasses, and weeds; mold; dust mites; and animal danders. As otolaryngologists, we are particularly interested in respiratory airborne allergies as they affect the nasal and throat structures that we treat.
Many people are affected by seasonal allergies due to pollen. Spring usually brings allergens caused by tree pollen, such as elm, maple, birch, poplar, beech, ash, oak, walnut, sycamore, cypress, hickory, pecan, cottonwood, and elder. Late in the spring, pollens often come from grasses, such as timothy, orchard, red top, sweet vernal, Bermuda, johnson, and some bluegrasses. One of the major causes of allergic rhinitis in the United States is ragweed pollen, which begins to appear in early to mid-autumn.
Yearlong (Perennial) Allergens
Dust mites, pet dander, and molds are allergens that can cause allergy symptoms all year long. If a house has poor ventilation, symptoms tend to be worse in the winter. Molds are present in the environment throughout the year and grow both outdoors and indoors. Dust mites and pet dander can be particularly bad when the heat comes on in the fall and these allergens become airborne in the house, school, or place of work.
Over-the-counter antihistamines and decongestants can often be helpful in controlling allergy symptoms. If these medications do not provide relief and your allergy symptoms continue to have an impact on your life, the physicians of CornerStone Ear, Nose & Throat can help you with a treatment plan for relief.
When To See A Doctor About Allergies
When initially assessing patients for allergies, at CornerStone Ear, Nose & Throat we complete a thorough physical examination of the ears, nose, and throat. We also evaluate the nasal and sinus anatomy and inquire about sinus infections and other related illnesses. We strive to determine if infection or structural problems such as a deviated septum or nasal polyps may be an underlying cause of your nasal and sinus symptoms in addition to allergies.
If appropriate, we also test for specific respiratory allergens. These allergy tests, which are simple and are completed in our office, allow us to determine if allergy immunotherapy is indicated. Allergy immunotherapy involves gradually exposing patients to increasing doses of the actual allergens that cause the allergic reactions. Over time, allergy immunotherapy usually reduces or eliminates the allergic symptoms and the need for ongoing medications. We offer subcutaneous immunotherapy (allergy shots) or sublingual immunotherapy (allergy drops under the tongue). Both adult and pediatric patients at CornerStone Ear, Nose & Throat experience great results with allergy drops because they can be taken at home and do not require weekly shots and visits to a doctor’s office for allergy care.
CornerStone Ear, Nose & Throat is the first and one of the only practices in the Charlotte region to offer allergy drops. We have found allergy drops to be a very effective treatment alternative for children and busy adults with allergies.