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In a recent live chat Dr. Jamee Tantoco MD, Allergy, Immunology & Asthma, fielded questions from the entire NorthShore area about springtime allergies. Highlighted below are some of the more informative questions but if you are interested in the entire transcript of the live chat, it's available in our archive.
Q: Hello. My 7-year-old daughter has seasonal allergies which are kicking in. She is having a hard time taking swimming lessons due to nose stuffiness. She sneezes a lot, and can't hold her breath underwater for too long as a result of stuffiness. Swimming lessons are after school. What can I do to resolve this?
A:The first line of medications for controlling nasal congestion or stuffiness are nasal sprays, such as Flonase, Nasonex, Nasacort, Rhinocort, etc. These medications control nasal stuffiness the best, but it does take consistent use for a couple of weeks to have the maximum benefit. I would recommend starting one of the nasal sprays - 1 spray in each nostril daily - during the allergy season. For quick relief, the tablets such as Claritin, Allegra, or Zyrtec, can be used as needed - about 30 minutes before swim class - to reduce sneezing.
Q:Will a dirty home cause someone to be more allergy-prone? Like, if their home is dusty or their vents are dusty?
A:Not necessarily. Dust is a natural irritant for many people and exposure does not make someone more allergic or less allergic. The known risk factors for developing an allergy are genetics/family history. If your parents or other members of the family have allergies, there is a high likelihood you may have allergies also. With regards to a dirty environment, the hygiene hypothesis is a hot topic in allergy research. There is evidence that exposure to microbes (bacteria, viruses) in early life can be protective against developing allergies. What we do know is that this exposure is crucial during early infancy when our immune system is developing, but it is still under investigation and too early to give treatment recommendations on how to prevent allergies.
Q:Do meds like Claritin lose potency over time?
A:Many patients do notice that certain medications seem to be less effective with time, but this is usually an indication that the allergic symptoms are worsening. Claritin tends to be less potent than the other oral antihistamines, such as Allegra, Zyrtec, and Xyzal. I will often suggest that patients try these antihistamines if they feel Claritin is not as effective. Some patients do alternate among the different antihistamines, and that is perfectly fine to do, especially if they find that one is no longer as effective than it was previously.
Q:What are the long term effects on your health if you constantly have a stuffed up nose or other allergy symptoms?
A:We know that patients with uncontrolled Allergic Rhinitis tend to have more severe upper respiratory illnesses, such as the common cold, sinus infections. In patients with asthma, uncontrolled allergies can also flare their asthma symptoms - cough, wheeze, shortness of breath. On a day to day basis, uncontrolled allergies can cause fatigue and an inability to concentrate. This can have a huge impact on the quality of life and at work or school. Getting control of the symptoms with medications or allergy immunotherapy can make a dramatic improvement and prevent these complications.
Q:I'm allergic to my dog, but I won't give him up. What can I do?
A:In this case, the best thing you can do is to create a dog-free room in your house. I usually recommend that the bedroom, be pet-free. HEPA filters can also be helpful and cleaning the house regularly. Taking allergy medications may also be necessary. Lastly, while not an indication for allergy shots, some patients do get benefit from their pet allergies with immunotherapy.