Allergy Newsletter 2011 - Fall : Page 1
fall 2011 A newsletter for patients of University of Missouri Health Care’s ENT and Allergy Center of Missouri WORST ALLERGY YEAR EVER? Is this the “THIS YEAR IS THE WORST ALLERGY YEAR EVER.” We seem to hear this every year. This time, it may be true. The 2011 spring rains in the Midwest were nearly continuous. Plants, trees and grasses flourished. When the rain stopped, pollen from the plants became airborne. In addition, the annual allergy seasons in the northern United States and southern Canada have actually increased by 10 to 15 days during the past 30 years. Even global warming (cyclic or permanent) is involved, because increasing temperatures lengthen the duration of the seasons. In developed countries, more people today have allergies than 30 years ago. Studies now show that allergies affect one in five Americans — which equals 50 to 60 million people. This is conservatively a 10 to 15 percent increase in the number of allergy sufferers. More children, teenagers and adults are allergic. New immigrants to the United States and other developed countries also tend to develop allergies and asthma when they relocate to more urban and populated areas. Yes, for several reasons, this allergy season is probably worse than past seasons. However, allergy treatment is also better and more accessible than in the past. Safe, long-lasting and inexpensive antihistamines do not require a doctor’s prescription. Nasal steroid sprays are more effective. Topical antihistamines work well for noses and eyes. Allergy shots and allergy drops are excellent treatments. With good medical care and direction, you can expect an overall allergy control rate of around 90 percent. ALLERGIES OR IRRITANTS? Irritants and allergies frequently are confused because they can cause many of the same symptoms. The difference is important, though, because they have different causes and require different treatment methods. Irritants Irritants such as strong perfumes, cigarette smoke and chemical odors are triggers that often cause symptoms such as sneezing, watery eyes, headaches and coughing. When a person encounters an irritant, the body responds with a defense mechanism that causes the nose, eyes and throat to produce more mucous. Most people have some irritant reactions, but certain people are more sensitive than others. Allergies An allergy is caused when the body’s immune system mistakes a harmless substance for a dangerous one and responds with an immune-system defense. Common substances that cause allergies, called allergens, include pet dander, dust mites, tree pollen and ragweed pollen. How are they different? People who are prone to allergies will react even to small amounts of these substances, while people without allergies can tolerate very high exposures without a reaction. That is because the immune systems of people without allergies don’t react to harmless substances. Allergies usually can be treated with drugs called antihistamines, steroid nasal sprays and certain types of immunotherapy, such as allergy shots or drops. Irritant reactions don’t usually respond to standard allergy treatments. There are effective treatments for inhaled irritant reactions, including saline irrigation and some prescription nasal sprays. However, the best option is to avoid the trigger, if possible. If you experience allergy symptoms or think your sensitivity to irritants is especially high, talk to your doctor. To schedule an appointment at the University of Missouri Health Care’s ENT and Allergy Center of Missouri, please call (573) 817-3000.
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