Doctors, researchers offer tips to beat seasonal allergies - Cincinnati News, FOX19-WXIX TV

Doctors: Beating seasonal allergies may not require a shot

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Coughing, sneezing and wheezing this time of year is a problem for many, but antibiotics may only make it worse. Coughing, sneezing and wheezing this time of year is a problem for many, but antibiotics may only make it worse.

(RNN) – The first thing most people with sinus infections want to do is go to the doctor to get a shot, but that may not be the best option.

In the long run, it could make matters worse.

The Infectious Diseases Society of America (ISDA) released an advisory last year saying that using antibiotics to treat sinus infections is an ineffective method because 90 to 98 percent of cases are caused by viruses. Antibiotics attack bacteria, not viruses.

"There is no simple test that will easily and quickly determine whether a sinus infection is viral or bacterial, so many physicians prescribe antibiotics 'just in case,'" stated Dr. Anthony Chow of the University of British Columbia-Vancouver in the ISDA report. "However, if the infection turns out to be viral - as most are - the antibiotics won't help and, in fact, can cause harm by increasing antibiotic resistance, exposing patients to drug side effects unnecessarily and adding cost."

That also means antibiotics will not properly treat airborne irritants like cigarette smoke and exhaust fumes.

A doctor should ask a patient several questions and take into account the person's medical history before prescribing a specific treatment.

Part of battling seasonal allergies includes understanding what they are and what causes them.

Allergies are essentially an overreaction to harmless substances that enter the body. The body's immune system goes into overdrive and produces excess tears and mucus in addition to other reactions. The most common allergic diseases include hay fever, asthma, conjunctivitis, hives, eczema, dermatitis and sinusitis.

More than one-third of people with runny noses and nasal inflammation do not have allergies, according to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology. The condition, referred to as nonallergic rhinitis, usually afflicts adults and can happen any time of year.

No part of the country is much better at reducing symptoms of allergies than another. Each region has specific plant life and climate conditions that can trigger reactions in certain people.

Allergies affect more than 50 million people each year and are the sixth-leading cause of chronic illness in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Annual costs for treatment reach more than $18 billion.

The CDC says minor sinus infections will usually get better on their own, but they will take longer to clear than colds. Symptoms usually last for a few weeks or longer.

Anaphylaxis, or anaphylactic shock, is the most severe allergic reaction. Symptoms include flush skin, lightheadedness, chest tightness and tingling in the hands, feet or lips. It can cause breathing or blood circulation problems and in severe cases, death. People at severe risk for anaphylaxis should carry an epinephrine pen.

Allergists recommend several things people can do prevent flare-ups or severe reactions:

  • Keep car and home windows closed and stay in air conditioned environments as much as possible.
  • Use allergy-reducing air filters for cooling systems and change them frequently. Beware of ionic electrostatic air filters because they release ions that can irritate allergies.
  • Shower and wash hair often, preferably as soon as you return home.
  • Go out only in the early morning or after sundown if possible. Pollen levels are highest during dry, warm weather. A mask can help during prolonged exposure to the elements.

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