All About Allergies

Allergies are caused by the immune system’s reaction to things in our environment. The things you are allergic to are called allergens. Allergens can range from items such as pollen and molds to food and chemicals. By far, the allergens that cause the most sinus problems are those that we inhale, such as pollen and molds.

When the body comes into contact with something to which it is allergic, it produces several chemicals. The most common is histamine, which causes swelling and inflammation. If allergies are severe and persistent enough, chronic conditions such as rhinitis, sinusitis, polyps, or asthma can result.

Allergies affect the sinuses when airborne allergens come into contact with the mucus lining in the nose and sinuses. The release of histamine and the resulting swelling can cause symptoms that include:

  • Sneezing
  • Congestion
  • Post-nasal drip
  • Itchy and watery eyes
  • Irritation in the nose and throat
  • Circles under the eyes caused by increased blood flow to the sinuses

In the South, allergies are very common due to the large number of pollen-producing plants. Non-plant allergens include mold, house dust mites, and pet dander.

Take Our Sinus Quiz

Our quiz measures symptoms, along with frequency and duration, and is used as a tool for diagnosis and treatment.

Pet Allergies

Pet allergies can strike anyone at any age of his or her life. Most people who suffer from pet allergies often have additional moderate allergies to pollen or molds. People who are allergic to animals are often allergic to pet dander, saliva, or urine. Because cats and dogs are the most common pets, they are at the top of the list of animals to which people are the most allergic. People can also be allergic to several other animals including:

  • Guinea pigs
  • Horses
  • Birds
  • Hamsters and gerbils
  • Rabbits
  • Goats
  • Cows

Enzymes in an animal’s saliva and dander are the most common cause of allergic reactions due to animals. While reactions can be controlled with antibiotics and over-the-counter products, there isn’t a cure for pet allergies.

Insect Sting Allergies

Wasp, bee, yellow jacket, hornet, and fire ant stings most often trigger allergic reactions.

Symptoms of a severe allergic reaction to insect bites may include one or more of the following:

  • Rapid pulse
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Hives
  • Swelling of the throat, face, or mouth
  • Wheezing or difficulty swallowing
  • Dizziness or severe drop in blood pressure
Although severe allergic reactions to insect bites are not that common, they can lead to shock or cause cardiac arrest in 10 minutes or less. It is important to get emergency treatment as soon as possible. Luckily, most people do not react this severely to insect bites, but wasp and bee stings can be very painful even if they don’t require medical attention.

Indoor

Indoor allergies are just as prevalent as outdoor allergies. In some instances, patients have allergies to items in their homes and don’t realize those allergens are triggering their allergic reactions. Common indoor allergies include:

  • Animal saliva and dander
  • Dust
  • Dust mites
  • Mold
  • Mold spores

Outdoor

Pollen-producing plants are everywhere in South Carolina, causing coughing, sneezing, runny noses, and asthma. Common outdoor allergies include:

  • Grass pollen
  • Oak
  • Ragweed
  • Pine
These pollen-producing plants and trees can trigger an allergic reaction. When pollen reaches the nose and lungs, it is treated as a foreign object by the body. This allergic reaction causes the body to cough and produce mucus to remove the pollen.

Allergies are a defense mechanism, but sometimes the reactions can become acute.

Our physicians have a close working relationship with many board certified allergists and immunologists in the Midlands.
Allergy Treatment

If allergies are bothering the deviation, patients may benefit from allergy treatment. Treating allergies decreases the swelling of the lining of the septum, especially surrounding the turbinate tissue. Patients will often notice less congestion, but it is important to note this does not repair a deviated septum.  Allergy treatments might include:

  • Oral Antihistamines
  • Intranasal Antihistamines
  • Intranasal Steroids
  • Allergy-Shots

Medications and Treatment

  • Nasal Irrigation – Using an over-the-counter saline spray or irrigation system may cleanse and moisten the sinuses.
  • Antihistamines – These act by blocking the release of histamine.
  • Nasal Steroid Sprays – These are a preferred treatment for mild allergies, as they are efficient in reducing nasal congestion and irritation.
  • Decongestants – They reduce blood flow by shrinking the membranes in your nose. Pseudoephedrine is a stimulant; which may cause jitteriness, elevated blood pressure, diminished sleep quality, and anxiousness.
  • Immunotherapy (Desensitization) – This is a method that introduces a small amount of a known allergen, which allows your body to create a tolerance to that allergen without triggering an allergic reaction.