It was once believed that Arizona was the perfect place for seasonal allergy sufferers. However, this is no longer the case. The unique mixture of the desert air with the imported greenery has created “the Arizona nose” — a symptomatic combination of piercing pain between the eyes, never-ending headache, runny nose, congestion and sinus drainage. To make matters worse, Arizona is experiencing a warmer than typical spring — which is causing plants and flowers to bloom early. When there are flowers, there is pollen, and allergy sufferers are sure to react.
David Mendelson, D.O., FAOCO, an otolaryngologist on the medical staff at Tempe St. Luke’s Hospital, St. Luke’s Medical Center, Mountain Vista Medical Center and in practice at ENT Specialists of Arizona, answers common questions about seasonal allergies and sinuses.
Q: What can you do to prevent allergies?
A: You cannot fully prevent allergic reactions. However, you can reduce your exposure to allergens to ease discomfort. If you have a known allergy, avoidance is your best protection. Also, you can reduce allergens around the house:
Use allergy dust covers on pillows and mattresses; Place cheesecloth over air duct outlets in your home, especially in bedrooms; Sleep with the windows closed — open windows invite outside allergens into your home; Use air filters with a HEPA filter and let the air filters run 24 hours a day with the doors closed; Remove feather pillows and comforters from the home; Keep bedrooms pet-free. Pets have dander, which can trigger allergies. They can also bring allergens into the home from the outdoors. To prevent this, clean your pets regularly and consider brushing them as they come in from outside; Use a vacuum with a HEPA filter.
Q: What else can we do to alleviate allergies?
A: People experiencing allergies can have all kinds of symptoms, including nasal congestion, watery eyes, stomachaches, headaches and itchy skin. After ridding your home of common allergens, consider taking over-the-counter allergy medications, which work well for people with minor allergies. There are also over-the-counter nasal sprays, which help relieve seasonal and year-round nasal allergy symptoms, including congestion, sneezing, itchy nose or runny nose.
Q: What if over–the-counter medication isn’t providing enough relief?
A: Meet with a physician to discuss prescription medications. A physician specializing in allergies may want to perform an allergy test to determine the cause of the allergy symptoms. Physicians can prescribe a nasal steroid spray to help reduce allergy and asthma symptoms. The newest treatment option is allergy drops, which have been used for many years in Europe and contain the same ingredients as allergy shots. Note, allergy drops are not yet FDA-approved, so insurance companies may not provide coverage. Still, allergy drops may be a practical alternative for those who could benefit from allergy shots, but are unable to make the weekly commitment required to receive shots by a physician.
Q: I have chronic sinus infections — what can I do?
A: Allergy symptoms can mimic sinus infections and vice versa. Allergies can also develop into sinus infections. It’s always best to first treat allergies and sinuses with a conservative approach—such as antibiotics and prescriptions medications. If these don’t provide enough relief, a physician may order a Computerized Axial Tomography, or CAT scan, of the nose and sinuses. This can reveal if there is evidence of chronic sinusitis and help determine whether or not you are a surgical candidate. If it is determined that you are suffering from chronic sinusitis, you may be a candidate for a minimally invasive procedure called balloon sinuplasty.
Q: What is balloon sinuplasty?
A: Balloon sinuplasty is an endoscopic, catheter-based system that uses tiny balloons to open blocked sinuses similar to the way angioplasty uses balloons to open blocked coronary arteries. This FDA-approved technology uses a small, flexible sinus balloon catheter to open up blocked sinus passageways, restoring normal sinus drainage. When the sinus balloon is inflated, it gently restructures and widens the walls of the passageway, while maintaining the integrity of the patient’s normal anatomy. After treatment, most patients experience a fast return to normal breathing and drainage. Balloon sinuplasty offers a number of surgical benefits to most patients, including reduced bleeding, improved recovery time and synergy with other treatment options.
David Mendelson, D.O., FAOCO, an otolaryngologist on the medical staff at Tempe St. Luke’s Hospital, St. Luke’s Medical Center, Mountain Vista Medical Center and in practice at ENT Specialists of Arizona. For a referral to a primary care physician or specialist, call 1-877-351-WELL (9355).
This information is provided by Tempe St. Luke’s Hospital and St. Luke’s Medical Center as general information only and is not intended to replace the advice of a physician.