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The Answer Doc with Christopher Munger, M.D.

Be proactive in battling allergies

    ACHOO!  Bless you! Ah, some more of the familiar sounds of allergy season.  In my last article, I discussed what allergic rhinitis was and how it can affect up to 25% of the population.  Today, I discuss some ways to teat this common medical problem.
    The best defense against allergies is a good offense. That means finding ways to avoid or limit exposure to allergens.  This includes but is not limited to:
 1. Pet dander: this is essentially pet dandruff and no you don’t have to get rid of
“fluffy” and “mittens,” but keeping them confined to common areas in the house or outdoors and not snuggling with you in bed is a good start.
 2. Cockroach dander:  Effective cleaning and pest control can limit exposure to
this potent allergen.
 3. Mold: again effective cleaning is a must. You might want to have your crawl-
space examined for moisture problems that can lead to mold formation.
    For many people, limiting exposure to an allergen is not enough, or is not possible, and that is where medication plays a role. There are a number of medication options to help treat allergic rhinitis.
 1. Antihistamines:  These medicines block histamine which is the cause of many of the allergy symptoms. These include over the counter medicines like Benadryl, Claritin, and Tavist as well as prescription medications like Allegra and Zyrtec.
 2. Nasal steroids:  Available only by prescription, nasal steroids are the most potent and effective way to treat allergic rhinitis.  They work by decreasing inflammation in the nasal cavity from allergy and suppress the cascade of events that cause allergy symptoms. These medicines are proven safe in long term use and have been shown to be superior to antihistamines in many large medical studies. Some nasal steroids you may recognize include Flonase and Nasonex.
 3. Mast cell stabilizers:  these medicines work by preventing the release of histamine from mast cell in the body.  They are most commonly used as add-on therapy by doctors when a patient’s symptoms are difficult to control. Singulair is a well known mast-cell stabilizer.
    Finally, medications may not be enough for some people.  In these cases doctors turn to allergy immunotherapy, more commonly known as “allergy shots.”  Essentially, patients are given shots with a small amount of an offending allergen on a scheduled basis. Over time, the person’s body builds up “immunity” to the allergen and thus fewer symptoms.
    More information on limiting exposure to allergens and more detailed information about the treatment options mentioned today can be found at the Asthma and Allergy foundation of America web site www.aafa.org

    Dr. Christopher Munger’s column appears every other Sunday. Dr. 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 recieved 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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