NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — In the middle of spring, so many people are suffering from severe allergies. While Connecticut saw a pretty mild winter, this spring has brought residents harsher allergy symptoms than usual due to a “pollen vortex.”

Joining us Sunday on Good Morning Connecticut, Dr. Jigisha Morosky from Sterling Physicians provides tips for treating severe allergies.

Click on the video above to watch the full interview with News 8’s Stephanie Simoni. Below is additional information and questions often asked on the subject of allergies:

How can a person tell the difference between a cold and allergies?

  • Unfortunately nasal allergy symptoms and common cold symptoms are essentially identical.
  • Variables we examine are exposure to an allergen, like pollen or a pet, the duration of symptoms – months versus 1 to 2 weeks, and if there is improvement while taking allergy medications.

Are there any symptoms that are different?

  • Distinguishing factors for a cold might be a fever, malaise (feel bad) and muscle aches. Which typically are not associated with allergies however severe allergies can also cause low grade fever and malaise, hence the name hay fever.
  • Allergies often cause itchy eyes which the common cold typically doesn’t.
  • With allergies the nasal discharge is often clear but with the common cold it can be thick and yellowish.
  • Allergies and the common cold, can both cause nasal congestion and prevent the sinuses from draining, and may lead to sinusitis.
  • Acute sinusitis is characterized by nasal symptoms accompanied by pain in the forehead and/or over the cheeks.
  • Acute sinusitis can be treated with antibiotics.
  • However if the sinusitis was triggered by uncontrolled allergies it will recur if the allergies are not adequately controlled. Uncontrolled allergies can also cause increased risk for ear infections especially in children.

What are the most effective treatments for allergies?

  • First I recommend patients do environmental control measures.
  • For pollen allergies, Dr. Morosky recommends keeping windows closed and doing rinse off shower when coming indoors.
  • Firstline medications I recommend are long -acting, non-sedating oral antihistamines such as Zyrtec or Allegra.
  • However for patients with more severe allergy symptoms antihistamines often don’t provide adequate improvement.
  • Nasal steroid sprays such as Flonase and Nasacort are a lot more effective than Antihistamines.  They have an effect on multiple different mediators in the nose as well as the allergy cells themselves, therefore improving all of the nasal symptoms caused by allergies. Antihistamines only help with decreasing the effect of histamine.
  • Don’t confuse nasal steroid sprays with nasal decongestant sprays such as Afrin, which can cause your nose to become addicted to Afrin. Afrin use should be limited to 3 days to help prevent this.

Are there any natural treatments available?

  • Nasal saline rinses are safe and effective and have been around for centuries.
  • Nasal saline rinses like Neti Pots help rinse out all of the allergens from your nasal passages and also wash out mucus and decrease swelling of the nasal tissues.
  • They are very helpful for not just allergies, but also the common cold as well as sinusitis.
  • There has been anecdotal evidence that taking small amounts of local honey every day has relieved allergy symptoms for some, but it has not been scientifically shown to be effective in treating seasonal allergies.
  • Bees collect pollen from flowers so honey does not contain significant amounts of the allergic pollen (trees, weeds, grasses) to provide benefit.
  • Honey does however help sooth a cough.

Are there any permanent solutions to get of allergies all together?

  • Allergy shots, or immunotherapy injections, are the most effective form of therapy since they actually change the immune system so the person is not as allergic.
  • The allergy shots are done specifically for the allergens that a person is allergic to. So the first step is skin testing to identify their sensitivities.
  • However everyone can benefit from skin allergy testing, even individuals not interested in doing allergy shots.
  • Most people have more sensitivities then they realize. For example, a lot of patients believe they are allergic to tree pollen, but testing often shows they are allergic to grasses and weeds. Some people are allergic to year-round allergens such as dust mites.
  • Identifying the allergic allergen can help determine when they start and stop their allergy medications.
  • Most people who begin to receive allergy shots start seeing improvement within 2 to 3 months.
  • Unfortunately, doctors typically do not start patients on allergy shots during their allergic pollen season, as it can contribute to increased risk for allergic reactions to the shots.

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