The itching, sneezing, burning questions

Getting answers on allergy season

Dr. George Lyle specializes in otolaryngology and head and neck surgery at the Barranco Clinic in Winter Haven. He often sees patients suffering from allergies. Dr. Lyle answers some questions about these sometimes debilitating problems.

Central Florida Health News (CFHN): Spring can wreak havoc on people with allergies. What are the main culprits of spring allergies?

Dr. Lyle: The biggest culprits are the pine and oak trees. The pollen causes the color on our cars, and it is a major allergen to many people. The other thing is the weeds that start blooming in conjunction with the orange trees blossoming. Spring is the main allergy season for most people, followed closely by fall.

CFHN: What elements of nature can effect the severity of allergies?

Dr. Lyle: With pollen, some years can be worse depending on the previous year’s rainfall. If a year is particularly wet, the next year will have more pollen. This year has been especially bad because we’ve had a drought. The lack of rainfall has meant that instead of the pollen being washed away, it’s just accumulating and being re-aerosolized into the air.

CFHN: Do you recommend over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription allergy medications?

Dr. Lyle: There are lots of options for treatment, and one determinant is whether the patient has perennial or seasonal allergies. With perennial allergies, the patient often doesn’t need a prescription. OTC medications will be fine. New OTC medications cause less drowsiness and have a good combination of an antihistamine and decongestant. They work well in conjunction with a prescription nasal spray.

CFHN: Do you have any advice for managing allergies outside of medication?

Dr. Lyle: I wouldn’t recommend any medication or treatment that hasn’t been put to the test and was found to be reliably successful in a majority of patients.

CFHN: When do you suggest allergy shots?

Dr. Lyle: For people with severe allergies, I would suggest allergy shots. The shots inject a small amount of the allergen to help desensitize the patient to their allergy. I wouldn’t suggest allergy shots for someone with a single seasonal allergy if medications can prove effective. The shots work for any allergen. In most patients, the allergy shots will help them to have a reduced reliance on medication.

CFHN: What are the signs of chronic allergies?

Dr. Lyle: Chronic allergies can be determined when symptoms last longer than eight to 12 weeks. Acute allergies last fewer than three months of the year. Chronic allergies are defined by persistent symptoms of nasal congestion, sneezing, itching eyes and throat, drainage, and itching ears. Some people also experience asthma, while others can have a rash or hives.

CFHN: When is it time to call a specialist?

Dr. Lyle: Most allergies can be managed with over-the-counter medications, so there is no need to see a specialist. If the symptoms are overwhelming and a lot of school or work is being missed, it may be time to get a referral for a specialist.

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