Allergies: Symptoms and Treatment
Seasonal allergies or “hay fever” arise when your body becomes hyper-reactive to normally
benign elements of the environment such as pollen, animal dander, and dust. Symptoms can
range in severity from mild disease, managed with avoidance and/or medication, to severe
disease impacting one’s ability to fully enjoy and experience life. Symptoms can also vary in
duration; while some are only affected seasonally, others experience symptoms throughout the
entire year. Symptoms can affect multiple systems including the eyes, ears, nose, lungs, and
skin. Common symptoms include itchy, watery, or red eyes, sneezing, runny nose, post-nasal
drip, sinus congestion, frequent sinus infections, feelings of ear fullness, cough, shortness of
breath, and hives.
Treatment of allergies involves a number of modalities depending on the severity of symptoms
and the type of allergy. Avoidance of allergens may be sufficient to prevent symptoms. However,
avoidance is not always possible or desired. In the event avoidance is not a possibility, sinus
rinses and nasal sprays are often adequate to control symptoms. Oral medications, inhaled
medications, and eye drops may also be prescribed. Allergen immunotherapy, or allergy shots,
are an option for patients whose allergies and use of medications interfere with their quality of
life. For most patients, immunotherapy offers the best, long-term solution to seasonal allergies.
The goal of therapy is to reduce symptoms, reduce the number and frequency of medications,
and ultimately, to improve one’s quality of life.