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.