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The Answer Doc with Christopher Munger, M.D.

Yearly tradition: Allergy season

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Posted: March 23, 2007 5:41 p.m.
Updated: April 7, 2007 5:00 a.m.
    Note: This is a health information column by Statesboro physician Christopher Munger. Look for the column to appear every other Sunday.

    Cars are yellow with pine pollen. Azaleas and dogwoods are in full bloom. Patients are coming into our office with complaints of colds that won’t go away. This happens every year and as a family doctor, these things can herald only one thing.      No, it is not the fact that the Masters is once again upon us. The “tradition unlike any other” that I am speaking of is allergy season.
    Allergic rhinitis is a common ailment that affects 10-25 percent of Americans in the Southeastern United States. It comes in two forms: seasonal and perennial. It affects people of all ages with an average onset of 10 years of age. Symptoms of allergic rhinitis include:
  •  Nasal stuffiness and congestion
  •  Runny nose with clear discharge
  •  Postnasal drainage
  •  Itchy nose and eyes
  •  Dark circles under the eyes called “allergic shiners”
  •  A crease or line across the nose from rubbing the nose upward also known as an “allergic salute”
    Allergic rhinitis is a complex cascade of events that occur in the body in response to an inhaled allergen. The common culprit allergens in seasonal allergic rhinitis include tree grass and weed pollens. The common culprit allergens in perennial allergic rhinitis include house dust mites, mold, animal dander, cockroach droppings.
    Allergic rhinitis is not just a nuisance, it can cause a number or problems. Allergic rhinitis has been linked to increased viral infections, more frequent middle ear infections, asthma, decreased sleep and decreased school performance in children. Allergic rhinitis has been tied to increased viral infection, increased number of sinus infections, nasal polyps, and decreased work productivity in adults.
    Allergic rhinitis is easy to diagnose. A simple physical examination by your doctor can make the diagnosis. To determine exactly what you are allergic to is more complicated. The two most common ways include skin testing using suspected allergens and a blood test called RAST, that looks for antibodies to a particular allergen.
    The good news is that allergic rhinitis is often easy to treat. There are a number of medical options as well as environmental modification techniques that can help get a person’s allergy under control. I will discuss these in detail in my next column
    Dr. Christopher Munger is board-certified in family practice. He is a member of the Family Health Care Center in Statesboro and admits patients to East Georgia Regional Medical Center. He is originally from California. He received his bachelors degree from UCLA, his medical degree from Columbia University in New York City, and completed his training in family practice at the University of Virginia. He lives in Statesboro with his wife and two dogs.
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