Frequently Asked Questions
What can I do at home to improve my sinus and allergy problems?
- Over-the-counter nasal saline sprays used several times during the day along with nasal saline irrigations are beneficial for nasal hygiene.
- Nasal saline irrigations can be done anywhere from 3 times a week to twice daily for benefits in hydrating and clearing the nose of irritants and thick nasal secretions. You can purchase various preparations from the drugstore.
- You should actively institute environmental controls for allergens. Staying well hydrated with water has a multitude of benefits as does staying healthy and getting plenty of rest.
- Try to avoid contact with sick people as additional illnesses aggravate nasal and sinus problems.
- Please take the medications as recommended by your doctor.
What do you mean by environmental controls?
Environmental Controls are things in your home and measures you can take to decrease exposure to allergy irritants. You may want to:
- Housecleaning to keep the allergy particle loads low
- Minimizing upholstery, carpet, curtains, rugs, stuffed animals – things that trap allergens
- Use hypoallergenic bedding
- Wash bed linens every 2 weeks in hot water
- Add air filtration systems to your home
- Commercially clean ventilation systems and duct work in the home
- Keep windows and doors closed during your allergy season
- Keep animals out of bedroom
- Stay indoors during your peak allergy season if you are sensitive to outdoor allergens (e.g., grass, trees, ragweed)
- Wear a mask while doing housework or during gardening or yard work
- Prevent mold from growing in your home. Mold grows anywhere there is moisture – drain pans, under sinks, around air conditioner condensers, plants, bird cages. Keep these areas clean if you have allergies to mold.
What kinds of air filters are available?
- Electrostatic filter – It is simple to use and practical to install. Electrostatic filters fit in the same space as a regular fiberglass filter found in most air conditioning systems and thus are advantageous in that there are no special or extra parts needed. There are also standalone, portable electrostatic filter systems available for small rooms which have been popular in recent years. It works by simply removing particles and allergens from the air by electrostatic attraction. The filter itself is easily cleaned by wiping or running it under water. Regular cleaning is required to maintain filtration efficiency. It is a convenient system and the purchase of extra filters is not required. Overall, however, it is less efficient than the two other forms of air filtration listed here.
- HEPA (high-efficiency particulate arresting) filter – This is the most efficient type of filter. It captures particles as small as 0.3 micrometers and filters out many of the airborne pollens and allergens. Frequent filter changes are necessary as trapped particles build up rapidly and can strain the mechanics of the system. HEPA filtration can be placed in the home’s air conditioning system, but careful planning is required for its installation. Portable filtration systems are convenient to use with potential coverage of large areas in the home and filter changes are easy.
- Electronic precipitators – These filters work by the passage of air current over several electronically charges grids. As with all filtration systems, frequent cleaning is required for maximum efficiency. In the case of uncleaned filters, the air passing through the filter contains an increasing load of uncaptured particles which will cling to the home’s walls and upholstery with accumulation of noticeable deposits.
- Whatever type you choose, any additional filtration system is a great advantage over fiberglass filters in most air conditioning systems.
Which over-the-counter medications should I pick?
- Mucolytics (e.g., guaifenesin) – might help thin very thick, hard to clear secretions
- Nasal saline – regular use helps with nasal hygiene, clearing nasal irritants, and relieving nasal dryness; contains no medication and can be used as often as you like
- Nasal decongestants – provide temporary relief. These contain a medication that will shrink the blood vessels in the lining of your noseThe lining of your nose then becomes thinner and you are able to breath more easily through your nose for 4 – 12 hours between uses. Recommended usage is no longer than 3 days in a row.
- Oral decongestants – a pill taken by mouth that works the same way as topical decongestants. Caution is recommended in people with high blood pressure.
- Antihistamines – stops the chemical reactions in the body that lead to such symptoms as sneezing, and runny nose, and itchiness.
- Oral allergy and sinus medications – provide temporary relief; usually consist of a combination of the decongestant and an antihistamine.
- Nasal emollients (e.g., Pretz, Ponaris, Better Nose) can help with nasal dryness
Tell me about treatment for my allergies.
The most straightforward way to help you allergies is to practice AVOIDANCE and limit exposure to offending agents that stir up your allergy symptoms.
Medications can further help control symptoms. You can begin with a trial of over-the-counter medications. Your doctor can also recommend prescription medications. Avoidance and medications provide reasonable relief for most people.
Oftentimes, people are unable to stay away from offending agents and must live and work around their allergens. This is when allergy testing and allergy shots may be useful.
What happens during allergy testing?
Skin testing is performed in our office. Alternatively or in addition to skin testing, blood tests are available to test for sensitivity to certain allergens. We can describe these tests in more detail when you visit with us.
What are allergy shots?
Allergy shots, or immunotherapy, consist of injections containing very dilute amounts of the allergens to which you have sensitivities. This “primes” your immune system and blocks the reactions that lead to allergy problems – nasal congestion, runny nose, sneezing, itchy, irritated eyes, etc.
Over several months, you will receive injections containing increasing amounts of allergens to which you are sensitive. During this time, your symptoms will likely worsen, and you will need to stay on allergy medications. Once you begin to feel relief from your symptoms, we make that concentration of allergen you received the maintenance dose injection.