For all of the inconsistent weather in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, residents are actually fortunate that summer allergies are minimal. So if allergies are not causing all of your nasal stuffiness, what is?
All nasal symptoms are often referred to as allergies, but might, in fact, be due to other problems. Non-allergic rhinitis, which also creates a stuffy nose and post-nasal drip, is often worsened by changes in weather and ozone which is common in North Texas summers. Mold allergy can also be a problem during the summer as mold spores are active after a rain. Allergic rhinitis or hay fever, as it is commonly called, is more active in the spring and fall.
Sinus and nasal problems afflict 37 million Americans and if you’re among them, you know how miserable the symptoms can make you feel. The congestion, facial pain and post nasal drip are all too annoying.
Although summer often brings a bit of a respite from sinus symptoms, as pollen counts are low and the cold viruses that trigger it are less active in warm weather, sinus problems do crop up in summer. Here are some precautions to take to avoid summer sinus problems:
- Watch out for pollen; avoid extended outdoor events if pollen counts are high.
- Keep your nasal passages moist with a good saline (salt water) nasal spray.
- Frequent nasal irrigation helps rid the nasal passages of bacteria and particles.
- Steer clear of irritants such as smoke, smog, and exhaust fumes.
- Use non-prescription antihistamines as needed.
- Use non-prescription steroid nasal sprays (Flonase or Nasacort) regularly.
Sometimes it’s difficult to know if your discomfort is from ‘the sinuses’ or if it is allergy related. That’s where allergy testing can clarify the situation.
The good news is that summer is actually the best time for allergy testing. Why? Because allergy testing requires that you be off of antihistamines. Allergy testing will help determine the best treatment for managing your condition.
If your symptoms are especially troublesome or if you want to minimize your need for medications, you might be a candidate for allergy shots or another form of immunotherapy. The concept behind immunotherapy (allergy shots) is that the immune system can be desensitized to specific allergens that trigger allergy symptoms. The allergen(s) are identified through a combination of a medical evaluation performed by a professional allergist/immunologist and allergy diagnostic testing (allergy skin testing or allergy blood tests).
Allergen immunotherapy is a proven effective treatment for allergic rhinitis, allergic asthma and stinging insect allergy. It also may be effective in some individuals with atopic dermatitis (eczema) if they have allergies to airborne allergens.
For people who want quicker results or whose schedule is better suited to a more intensive initial phase of immunotherapy, cluster immunotherapy is an option. Cluster immunotherapy reduces the escalation phase by 50% (from 20 weeks to 10 weeks) by giving “clusters” of injections during the first 5 weeks.
Whether allergies or sinuses, nasal conditions are uncomfortable no matter what season it is. The first step toward feeling better is to see your allergist/immunologist to determine your condition through the appropriate evaluation and testing. Only then will you be able to breathe easier year round.