Allergies have made many Alabamians miserable for the past few weeks, and a local allergy doctor has some advice to help alleviate symptoms.Forecasts indicate allergens will still be at their highest …
Allergies have made many Alabamians miserable for the past few weeks, and a local allergy doctor has some advice to help alleviate symptoms.
Forecasts indicate allergens will still be at their highest in Alabama for the coming days. Dr. J.T. O'Neil, who is originally from Jasper and is employed with ENT Associates of Alabama , said Alabamians are dealing with tree allergies now, as well as fungus allergies.
He said it can be difficult to differentiate a true allergy from a bacterial infection.
"A lot of the symptoms are the same, things like nasal congestion, drainage, even fever and malaise can be from allergies or a virus. Ones that are more specific for allergy are sneezing and itchiness, like itchy eyes," O'Neil said. "Bacterial infections tend to be based on time. Almost all upper respiratory infections start off as allergies or viruses, but once you've had something for about a week, if you still have it, then it tends to be bacterial."
O'Neil said double worsening can also come into play where patients will get better and then relapse about a week later, sometimes with symptoms worse than before. He said such illness can point to a bacterial infection.
Typical treatment for allergies involves steroid sprays such as Flonase, oral antihistamines like Xyzal, or leukotriene inhibitors, such as Singulair.
"Those three classes of drugs make up the mainstay of allergy treatment," O'Neil said.
He also recommends nasal irrigation for some natural relief.
"If your patio or your car gets covered in pollen, often you'll take a hose pipe and spray them off. The same strategy can hold in your nose with things like Neti Pots or saline rinses," O'Neil said. "If you've been outside or toward the end of the day, if you'll flush your nose with saline, often you can flush a lot of the pollen out."
He said sometimes people have recurrent allergies throughout the year, and he recommends further treatment for those individuals.
"Allergies manifest in your nose, but the problem is in your DNA. Your DNA is allergic to things in your environment, so spot treatment or as needed treatment will give you short-term relief but not long-term," he said.
O'Neil said some patients find relief by seeking allergy testing and getting allergy shots or immunotherapy.
"It can help change the immune system to not be so sensitive to certain allergens," he said.
He admits that he doesn't believe this allergy season has been particularly worse than in years past.
"When you're suffering from it, it definitely feels that way," he said. "I think most allergy seasons in Alabama are bad."
O'Neil visits Jasper two days per week to see patients on the second floor of Walker Baptist's Medical Arts Tower. This is his seventh year of medical practice and in his second year serving Walker County.
To monitor the allergy forecast, visit www.pollen.com.