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Feeling Like Sneezy? It Might Just Be the Trees.

We were all feeling a bit congested in the office today, so I took the time to look up the pollen count on weather.com.  Lo and behold we had jumped to a “high” level of tree pollen – oak and pine specifically.  We were also all curious as to what we could possibly do to feel better and be able to enjoy the beautiful spring days. We asked Dr. Allen Marshall, an ENT with Wake Specialty Physicians, to help us understand allergies and what we can do to prevent or avoid the itchy, sneezy, snotty side effects.

Dr. Allen Marshall, Wake Specialty Physicians, ENT

North Carolina is a particularly bad state for allergies, and Raleigh is always pretty high on the list for bad seasonal allergies.  The reasons are pretty simple. Our environment is a great place for plants and trees that produce allergy-causing pollen to grow. You might be surprised to learn, however, that the yellow pollen coating your car, driveway and every other surface outside right now is not typically the kind of pollen that causes allergies. But this yellow pollen is a good sign that other allergy producing pollens that are not visible to the eye have arrived.

The best thing to do to prevent allergies is to avoid allergens altogether. Of course, we know that is not feasible.  But, it is possible to limit your exposure to allergens.  Shower or bathe after spending time outdoors, wash your sheets and clothes often, and limit your time outside during peak pollen seasons.  Keeping the doors and windows closed during high pollen count seasons may also help.
Contrary to popular belief, visible yellow pine pollen does not typically cause allergies. But the yellow pollen clouds are a sign that other pollens that do cause allergies have arrived.

To control symptoms associated with nasal allergies, try using saline nasal sprays and neti pots.  They actually wash allergens and the reactive mucus out of the nose.  The salt has the added benefit of drawing fluid out of the nose.  Dry, itchy eyes can also be combated with lubricating eye drops.  Since all these solutions contain no medications, they can be used frequently as needed throughout the day.

Various over the counter oral antihistamines are also a very effective way to combat allergies and the associated nasal congestion.  Antihistamines that contain decongestants may impact blood pressure, so those with known high blood pressure should check with a physician before taking these medications regularly.   There are also several prescription allergy medicines that are quite effective, including oral antihistamines and topical nasal steroid or antihistamine sprays.

If you have an allergic flair-up and symptoms are severe, it is probably a very good idea to see a doctor.  Chronic allergies can progress to sinusitis.  Cardinal symptoms of sinusitis include facial pressure and pain in the face, forehead or teeth.  If you have these symptoms and they persist for more than a week, then you may have sinusitis.

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