Summertime Cold or Allergies?

Although it is summertime, there are still a large number of people suffering from seasonal allergies. Allergy symptoms include itchy and watery eyes, itching of the nose and throat, runny nose, sneezing constantly, and stuffy nose. For many allergy sufferers, these symptoms can be chronic or seasonal, depending on the particular allergen sensitivity. Typical summertime outdoor allergens are ragweed and mold. Indoor allergens such as dust mites and pet dander usually cause year-round symptoms.

Allergy sufferers can usually differ between outdoor and indoor allergens by the time and location when symptoms occur. Patients with allergy symptoms that start soon after waking up are usually allergic to indoor allergens; symptoms that start soon after going outdoors usually represent sensitivity to pollens, and are usually seasonal.

So now that you realized that all these weeks you weren’t suffering from a cold, but in fact it is more like seasonal allergies, what do you do to make yourself better? Get help! Allergies are not dangerous but more of a nuisance. Over-the-counter treatment options vary, ranging from oral antihistamines to intranasal steroids. Oral antihistamines, like loratadine and cetirizine, are effective because of the quick onset of relief and effects on runny nose. However, oral antihistamines are not as effective with nasal congestion and stuffiness.

Intranasal steroids, like Flonase® and Rhinocort®, are more effective compared to oral antihistamines at providing complete symptom relief. However, nasal steroids need to be used on a daily basis for the medication to be effective. Symptoms usually improve after 2 weeks of daily use. If nasal steroids are used haphazardly, then the results are less than desirable.

The common side effect of oral antihistamines is dry mouth, so patients with history of dry mouth should be careful to not exacerbate and worsen the dry mouth. Additionally, antihistamines are well known to cause sedation of various degrees. For intranasal steroids, patients need to follow directions to ensure proper position when spraying the medication; otherwise nose bleeding can occur, a common side effect.

One warning, over-the-counter nasal decongestion medications are great at immediate relief for nasal congestion, but cause worsening of high blood pressure and heart palpitations. Nasal decongestant should not be used for more than 3-5 days for fear of worsening nasal congestion from the rebound effect.

There is a plethora of prescription medications that are not available over-the counter, and so if you fail to achieve symptom control with over-the-counter medications, you should consult your doctor for further management and evaluation. With appropriate treatment and relief of symptoms, summer can be enjoyable again!

About Dr. Veling Tsai

Dr. Tsai is a board certified Otolaryngology (Ear, Nose, and Throat) specialist.

He is a graduate of UCLA, Southern Illinois University School of Medicine and School of Law. Dr. Tsai is a professor at the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine, and has been a member of the SGVMC medical staff since 2009.

To contact Dr. Tsai’s office in Alhambra, please call (626) 576-2352.