When Is It Time to See a Doctor About Your Nasal Allergies?
When you have year-round severe allergies as I do, you have a tendency to just accept that allergy symptoms are a normal part of everyday life and to think that you have no choice but to "soldier on", "grin and bear it" and just keep living life the best you can despite your allergies.
But that's not always the best approach. The thing is, allergy symptoms can often be controlled to a great extent by the right approach to treatment. And I'm not just talking medication, though medicine can certainly be helpful.
The first line of defense against nasal allergies is to control your environment to the greatest extent possible. This is not as easy as it might sound.
1. First, you have to figure out what you're allergic to. Substances or circumstances that trigger allergic symptoms are called allergens. The most common ones are pollen, dust, pet dander & urine and molds. But many other substances can be allergens, or at least irritants, too. Things like tobacco smoke, wood smoke, strong odors, perfume, sawdust, and insect droppings can also trigger allergy symptoms in sensitive people. Not every allergic person is allergic to ALL of these substances.
2. Next, you need to either remove as many of these allergens from the places you spend most of your time... or avoid those places altogether. Avoiding your known allergens is the MOST effective way to reduce allergy symptoms. But this can be really hard to do, as well. And it's not realistic to think that you will be able to always avoid all of your allergens all the time. Still, anything you can do to reduce your exposure will be very helpful.
When you've done what you can to create a more allergen-free environment for yourself, the next step is to find the right combination of medications to control the symptoms you are still having. This will not be the same for everyone. As I explain in my article on Choosing the Right Allergy Medicine for You, the right medicine may be different for different people.
Some people do very well with an over-the-counter antihistamine pill, while others will have better results with a nasal spray. It often takes experimentation and practice to find what works best for you. And even then, things can change from month to month and year to year.
So that brings us back to the original question... How do you know when you need to see a doctor about your nasal allergies?
My answer to that is to use your common sense. Allergy symptoms may or may not go away completely with a combination of trigger avoidance and allergy medication. I know that mine are rarely absent for more than a day or two at a time.
So, to a certain extent, allergies ARE something we have to learn to live with. But it's a matter of degree. When your allergy symptoms become more than an annoyance and start to interfere with daily living, then it may be time to call your doctor.
If you're finding that you're missing days from work or school, staying in bed a lot, or just unable to tolerate everyday life because of your allergy symptoms, don't hesitate to call your doctor! It could be that your treatment plan needs to be adjusted and the doctor is your expert consultant on how to do that... even if you're using over-the-counter medication.
Another time you should consult with your doctor is when allergy symptoms don't come and go. Symptoms generally ebb and flow with exposure to allergens. If you get into an endless severe cycle of symptoms that never seem to ease off at all, it's time to call the doctor.
Certain types of allergy symptoms may even require emergency care. A severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis can be life-threatening. This usually occurs in response to being stung by certain insects (such as bees) or from a food allergy, but it could potentially arise from almost any trigger. If you feel as though your throat is closing up, you can't breathe or you have hives, it's time to get emergency care.
Finally, any time that allergies can't be gotten under control by working with your regular family doctor, you may want to consider a consultation with an allergy expert, called an allergist. Allergists can do special testing to pinpoint exactly what you are allergic to. They are also experts at devising treatment plans that work.
One last word on this topic... if you EVER are concerned about your allergies, have questions you can't find answers to, or feel that your allergies are out of control, it's a good time to call the doctor and arrange for an office visit. Better safe than sorry!