On Tuesday, April 2nd, I’ll be talking to Jill Krop about allergies on her AM/BC talk show (9 am on weekdays on BC1). Previous shows are on the internet at http://globalnews.ca/ (search for am/bc).
While many of us are celebrating the arrival of sunny spring weather and the Cherry Blossom Festival, those who suffer from seasonal allergies may be spending more time indoors.
Blooming flowers and trees are the outward signs that hayfever season has arrived. For those with seasonal allergies, symptoms include nasal congestion, sneezing, a watery nasal discharge, and itchy, puffy eyes.
Clues that these symptoms are allergic rather than infectious include (1) the absence of systemic symptoms such as fever (Hayfever is therefore a misnomer), (2) watery – rather than yellow or green – discharge from the nose or eyes, (3) improvement with antihistamines and (4) a clear relationship with exposure to pollen or other airborne triggers (allergens).
People with allergies to animal dander can get similar symptoms when exposed to dogs or cats. Those with allergies to dust and mold may get symptoms all year round.
The symptoms of allergic asthma include increased wheezing or coughing when exposed to respiratory allergens.
If you’re allergic to dogs, you can avoid them or consider getting a hypoallergenic breed that does not shed. What can you do if you’re allergic to other airborne allergens?
Avoidance is difficult unless you can live in a plastic bubble. HEPA filters may screen out some allergenic particles in the home.
Topical treatments may include saline or salt water rinses to remove allergens from the nose or sinuses. Prescription medications include eye drops or nasal sprays may reduce inflammation, itching and discharge.
Oral antihistamines can be effective. However, they should be used with caution as some are more sedative than others, some products contain decongestants that can increase heart rate and blood pressure, and they may interact with other medications.
If you have persistent or severe symptoms, consult with your family physician. Allergy testing or shots may be appropriate for you. Symptoms such as persistent nasal obstruction, discharge or coughing may be due to conditions other than allergies.
A potentially life-threatening class of allergic reactions is anaphylaxis. The symptoms come on suddenly within minutes to hours of exposure to allergens that may include certain foods (e.g. peanuts), insect bites or stings, medications or other foreign substances including latex.
Symptoms may include swelling of the throat, tongue or face called angioedema; shortness of breath or wheezing; lightheadedness or decreased consciousness; abdominal pain or vomiting.
Anaphylaxis requires immediate treatment by paramedics or in the emergency department. People with a history of anaphylaxis may carry epinephrine or adrenaline with them.
Dr. Davidicus Wong is a family physician at the PrimeCare Medical Centre. He is a regular Tuesday morning guest on Jill Krop’s AM/BC talk show on BC1.