Seasonal Allergies - A Health Discussion with Dr. Eric Houchin
Seasonal allergies are a common condition that affect millions of people every year. In Michigan, spring brings budding flowers, fresh grass and blooming trees. For those who suffer from seasonal allergies, however, spring also can bring itchy or watery eyes, sneezing, runny nose, post-nasal drip, congestion and sinus pain.
Dr. Eric Houchin of Bronson Family Medicine - The Groves sat down with WKZO 590 AM radio to discuss the causes, symptoms and different treatment options that can help those who suffer from seasonal allergies find some relief. Click here to listen to the full radio chat.
WKZO: We want to have you on since it is allergy season, there is already pollen in the air, and we’re set to get more in the air. That sounds like a recipe for a lot of problems.
Dr. Houchin: That is true. You have to look at where we live and the state of the climate in west Michigan. We’re a hot bed for allergies. That is a fact.
WKZO: What are some of the things we will be seeing here in the next few weeks that we should be concerned about?
Dr. Houchin: Certainly we will be seeing a lot more tree pollen from the maple and elm trees, as they are going to be exploding here soon. We will see it in our cars, on the ground and stuck to our clothes. We will also be breathing it in. For those of us who are sensitive to it, we are going to suffer. That is just the nature of allergy season. I think everyone should be prepared to start stocking their cabinets with some systematic treatments.
WKZO: What are some of the most successful treatments when it comes to dealing with allergies?
Dr. Houchin: It is really nice right now in regards to options for patients and consumers. There are a lot of over the counter antihistamines now and I think for the majority of us, we want to pick the antihistamines that are non-sedating that and are not going to impair us in terms of our function throughout the day. We should be looking at medicines like Claritin, Allegra or Zyrtec. There are plenty of over-the-counter options. Nasal steroids like Flonase and Nasonex are available as well. Stocking up on any of those can certainly help with symptoms.
WKZO: Is there anything else that we can do in our homes that you think could mitigate this, like filters?
Dr. Houchin: Absolutely. It is tempting when the weather is so nice outside and we have been running our furnaces all winter to open the windows to get some fresh air in. And typically the outside ambient air is actually more clean than the inside air, but not during this time of the year. When it warms up during the day, the pollutants and the pollens rise up in the air. Then when it cools down at night it all comes back down and settles right where our windows are open. So leaving the windows open at night is sort of like leaving your door open to pollen and allergens and inviting them come into the house. A big thing is to keep your windows closed at night, even though it is tempting to keep them open right now. Second, I would encourage everyone to use some form of a HEPA filtration system in their house somewhere – at least in the bedroom. Try to create a sanctuary of clean air in the bedroom. Hopefully we are spending a good six to eight hours in there each night while we sleep. If we are breathing in all of those allergens and pollen we will wake up full of congestion and stuffiness. But if we can keep the sanctuary of clean air in the bedroom with a HEPA filter, that can go a long way. Also, vacuum a lot. This will help pick up a lot of the pollen that is stuck in the carpet, on the floor or on the furniture. If we are outside exercising late at night, come home and put those clothes in the laundry. If we’re outside a lot in the evening, taking a shower to wash off the pollen makes a big difference as well.
WKZO: Every patient is a little different and there are many different things that each can do – but is there a standard that you turn to when a patient comes in and says that they have allergies?
Dr. Houchin: Absolutely. One of the best old fashion treatments that I advocate a lot, and get great responses with, is a good saline or salt water irrigation of the sinus. There are a number of products out there where you get a little squirt bottle that you fill up with warm water and a buffered salt solution. You can look up recipes on the internet if you want to make your own. And then you just go at it and irrigate the sinus and clean out the nasal passages. That can provide a lot of symptom control. Then, once you have all the mucus out of the way you can deliver the nasal steroid into the nasal mucosal a lot easier and get a better response. In conclusion, the first thing I would tell people is to start irrigating with some saline – which will make a big difference. Then pick your favorite over-the-counter, non-sedating antihistamine.
To schedule an appointment with a Bronson doctor, call (269) 552-4233. Providers at Bronson Family Medicine – The Groves have immediate openings for new patients, and current patients have access to same day appointments.