In the News: Dr. Chris Couch Interviewed by the Arizona Republic, March, 2017
Ask a Doc: Ah-choo! What's going on with these allergies?
March 31, 2017 - http://www.azcentral.com/story/entertainment/life/health/2017/03/31/ask-doc-ah-choo-whats-going-these-allergies/99833842/
Question: What happens to your immune system when you have allergies?
Answer: The medical term for seasonal allergies is allergic rhinitis, or inflammation of the nasal passages caused by allergens.
Airborne pollens, animal dander, dust mite and mold spores are a few allergens that can provoke rhinitis symptoms. The same allergens can also cause asthma and eye symptoms such as allergic conjunctivitis.
For unknown reasons, the immune system begins to recognize allergens as foreign, and an immune response begins to occur. Immune cells encounter the allergens in the nasal passages, eyes and lungs. Allergic antibodies are then produced to specific allergens and attach themselves to inflammatory cells.
When a person inhales allergens they “stick” to the antibodies, activating the inflammatory cells to release various substances that initiate inflammation. One of these substances is histamine.
Histamine causes the nasal passages to swell and increases mucus production, which leads to the symptoms of a runny nose, nasal congestion, post-nasal drip, sneezing and an itchy nose. Other immune cells are then activated and lead to chronic inflammation and more persistent symptoms.
Question: What are a few remedies that can ease allergy symptoms?
Answer: Avoiding exposure to the allergens that cause symptoms is the first step. This can be very difficult if you are allergic to multiple pollens. Seeing an allergist and undergoing testing to identify your triggers can be very useful.
Several over-the-counter medications are available for treating allergies, which include long-acting oral antihistamines (loratadine, fexofenadine, cetirizine), antihistamine eye drops (ketotifen), and nasal steroid sprays (Flonase, Nasacort, Rhinocort). Nasal saline irrigations may also help by clearing allergens and mucus from the nose.
There are a variety of other prescription medications that allergists use to treat allergic rhinitis, conjunctivitis and asthma.
The next treatment option that allergists recommend for patients that have moderate to severe symptoms is allergen immunotherapy, or allergy shots). This is a desensitization process where the immune reaction described above is changed over time, decreasing the allergic inflammatory response.
Chris Couch, MD, is an allergist at Allergy Asthma Clinic, LTD, and a Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of Arizona College of Medicine-Phoenix. For more information visit www.allergyasthmaclinic.net