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Spring is here! We’ve waited many long months for warmer temps and more hours of daylight.
However, you may have noticed an uptick in sneezing, itching, and eye irritation in the past few weeks. March ushers in allergy season in Tennessee, beginning with a steep rise in tree allergens, as well as grass pollen in the weeks ahead. This is also a time of wet weather, which can increase mold growth.
Upper respiratory allergies are a common problem for people living in Tennessee. In Tennessee, we experience heavy allergy seasons in both the spring and the fall. From middle Tennessee to Asheville, NC is considered the allergy bowl of the south. March, April, and May are most difficult because of the number of allergens active at the same time; tree pollen, grass pollen, and mold. Fall can be equally menacing as ragweed fills the air for 6-8 weeks between August and October.
Uncontrolled seasonal allergies are not just annoying; they can lead to other health concerns like sinus infections, ear infections, skin infections, asthma flares, and bronchitis.
Symptoms of Seasonal Allergies
- Itchy, watery eyes
- Nasal itching, drainage
- Sinus Drainage
How Do I Treat My Seasonal Allergies?
People living in Tennessee need to prepare in advance for seasonal allergy season. Most over the counter (OTC) treatments work well when started at the first sign of seasonal allergy symptoms.
- Begin a daily nasal saline rinse, available over the counter. Daily saline rinsing pulls allergens, particulate, and nasal mucous from the nasal passages. This clears out all of the irritants, thereby reducing inflammation, itching, and drainage. Think of this as a shower for your nose!
- Try an over the counter nose spray like Flonase, Nasocort, or Rhinocort. These nose sprays contain a safe dose of steroid, which calms inflammation in the nasal passages. These nose sprays are best utilized when allergy symptoms persist despite saline nasal rinsing.
- Start a daily antihistamine tablet. Allegra, Claritin, and Zyrtec are antihistamines available OTC and are generally well tolerated. These tablets are most effective within the first 12 hours of use and when taken on a daily basis (vs intermittently). These are especially useful if seasonal allergies cause your skin to react, too.
What Can I Do at Home to Reduce Allergy Symptoms?
- Shower daily. Rinsing allergens and particulate from skin and hair will improve all seasonal allergy symptoms including skin itching and rashes. Gentle cleansers like Dove and Vanicream are especially good for sensitive skin.
- Avoid skin care products containing dyes and perfumes. The ingredients over dry the skin and then cause irritation in the weakened skin barrier.
- Avoid skin care products containing plant / nut oils. All-natural is all the rage. Unfortunately, it is not a good idea to apply skin care products containing plant / tree / fruit / nut oils if you have allergies to those same allergens. For example, mango is a cousin to poison ivy. Yet, several skin care products contain mango. We see reactions from products like these on a regular basis. Remember, if you have reactions to airborne allergies, it’s probably not wise to rub those same plant oils on your skin.
- Keep windows closed, both in cars and in homes. Vacuum regularly to remove allergens that do get into the house.
- Change your home air filers every 2 months from now through October.
- Moisturize skin daily with a dye free, fragrance fee cream. Moisturizing cream doesn’t just relieve dry skin. Creams reinforce the skin barrier, making the skin less penetrable to airborne allergens and contactants. Vanicream and CeraVe cream are easy to find and gentle enough for all skin types.
When to Schedule an Appointment with Tennessee Telehealth
With a few lifestyle adjustments and over the counter medications, most people can manage seasonal allergies on their own. However, these are signs you need to schedule an appointment with Tennessee Telehealth for treatment:
- No relief after 4 days of over the counter treatment.
- Worsening of symptoms after 4 days of over the counter treatment.
- Productive cough, yellow or green nasal mucous.
- Rebound congestion from use of Afrin (we do not recommend use of Afrin as it can cause numerous side effects).
- Sinus congestion with pain in the sinus cavities. When you bend over at the waist, do you feel pain in your forehead? Your eyes? Your teeth? These are symptoms of a sinus infection.
- Worsening ear pain.
We have all been there. You don’t feel great, but not terrible, either. You have a runny nose, maybe some congestion, and a bit of a sore throat. You want to treat these symptoms, but how do you know if it is a cold, the flu, or allergies?
Understanding the differences between a cold, the flu, and allergies is key. And there are some significant differences. Know the differences so you don’t take medicine that you do not need or medicine that will be ineffective.
Cold, flu, and allergies affect your respiratory system, but in different ways and in different areas of the upper and lower respiratory system.
Be sure to check out the symptom checker at the end of this article. The good news, these symptoms can be handled through Tennessee Telehealth urgent care.
Cold and Flu Viruses
Both colds and flu are caused by viruses. The virus molecule enters the body through the nose or mouth. As the virus multiples, the body recognizes it as a foreign body. Within a couple days of exposure, the body’s immune system response begins. To disable the virus, body temperature may be increased and antibodies are produced. This could mean the patient experiences fever, fatigue, and muscle aches secondary to these immune system activities. Because the virus is circulating inside the body, the symptoms are generally systemic or affect the whole body.
Generally speaking, flu symptoms are more severe than cold symptoms. Flu more often causes fever, muscle aches, and fatigue. Cold virus can cause these symptoms, but much less frequently and with less severity. Colds can leave us feeling crummy, but often don’t keep us from activities of daily living. Virus symptoms are self-limited and typically resolve in 1-2 weeks.
Allergies are very different from a cold or flu virus. Allergies are airborne particles that are breathed in and irritate the mucosa of the airways. This irritation causes the allergy cells to produce histamine, leading to itching, fluid production, and swelling. Itching and fluid production cause runny nose, inflamed nasal and sinus tissue, cough, postnasal drip, eye irritation, and congestion in the middle ear canal.
Allergy symptoms last as long as the patient is exposed to the allergen. For example, season allergies, such as pollen seasons in the spring, summer, or fall last about six weeks.
Some allergies can become very serious, especially for patients with asthma. Repeated irritation and inflammation of the lower respiratory system can lead to a process called airway remodeling. This means that the airways are less flexible and adaptable because of the chronic swelling.
Over-the-counter (OTC) treatment for viruses is aimed at alleviating symptoms like fever, headaches, and body aches. Allergy treatment blocks some of the histamine response, which will improve the fluid production and itching associated with allergies.
Patients should always read labels of OTC meds when treating any medical problem. Be sure there are no interactions with other medications or supplements you may be taking. Also, be sure that you are not accidentally taking too much of any medication. For example, if you have a cold, you may first take ibuprofen capsules for your headache. Then you notice the cold medication you picked up has ibuprofen in it, as well. In this case, taking both medications could be unsafe.
Why Tennessee Telehealth
When you choose Tennessee Telehealth you can rely on an accurate diagnosis, safe and effective treatment, without long waits or unnecessary expenses, and another great part – you get to be at home or wherever you are most comfortable.
Book online and feel better soon!
Cold, Flu, or Allergies?
Urgent care delivers a timely diagnosis and treatment to patients with minor illnesses in an outpatient setting. Urgent care is typically needed same day but not emergent.
Urgent care serves as a bridge between the ER and a traditional doctor’s office, saving patients time, money, and hassle. Urgent care clinics allow primary care providers more availability for complex medical patients.
Urgent care clinics treat cough, colds, flu, asthma, stings, bites, rashes, sinusitis, skin infections, vaginitis, yeast infections, sore throat, swimmers ear, and more.
For patients, urgent care provides significant cost savings compared to the ER. Emergency Room deductibles and copayments are significantly higher than outpatient treatment. Urgent care reduces wait times and disruptions of daily activities like school and work and is mostly staffed by nurse practitioners and physician assistants. Nurse practitioners are nurses with a master’s degree or doctoral degree in nursing.
Telehealth for urgent care offers the same great care, now more convenient than ever before. By utilizing telehealth, patients receive a diagnosis and treatment without exposing others to illness, spend hours in an office, and generally enjoy significant cost savings.
Common Dermatology Myths
Natural skin care products are best.
Not always. All-natural products are composed of numerous tree, fruit, and nut oils. If you have allergies, eczema or asthma, you are more sensitive to these plant proteins. It makes sense then, that you wouldn’t want to smear plant allergens all over your skin! Though all-natural products generally well tolerated, it’s best to avoid them if you have significant environmental and / or food allergies.
Did you know: mango fruit is a cousin to poison ivy and can trigger a reaction when used on the skin.
Elimination diets will clear my skin.
This is such a commonly held belief, but I have no idea where it came from! There are no studies linking diet as a cause for eczema or acne. Dietary improvements such as decreased sugar, trans fats, and alcohol may modestly improve acne and eczema symptoms. Dietary modifications may also improve conditions like psoriasis and rosacea. However, none of these skin conditions results from diet alone. They each have underlying causes such as hormone shifts, genetics, & environment.
Getting a base tan from a tanning bed is safe.
No. Never. Tanning bed UV light is much more dangerous than the sun.
UV rays are sort and intense. When we are outdoors, we can manage our skin’s exposure to these intense rays with SPF, clothing, shade, etc. But in a tanning bed, these intense UV rays are inches from our skin. It is estimated that 10 minutes in a tanning bed is the same as 2 hours on beach. Yikes! UV not only causes skin cancer, it also breaks down collage and results in premature aging of the skin.
Did you know: Excessive UV also impacts your eyes, increasing the risk of cataracts and ocular melanoma.
Sunscreen causes skin cancer.
Sunscreen does not cause skin cancer. It can, however, provide a false sense of security, leading to overexposure to UV. Always reapply sunscreen as instructed on the product label. Even better? Wear protective clothing.
Everyone needs face moisturizer.
This is tricky. We’ve been told from advertising that moisturizing products will solve many of our skin problems. This is false.
There are two reasons to use moisturizer:
1) to hydrate dry skin, resulting in temporarily smooth, soft, more plump appearing skin.
2) to strengthen the skin barrier in conditions like eczema and rosacea where chronic irritation leaves skin more susceptible to breakdown and more reactive to the environment.
It is true that most people will experience dry skin, so having a moisturizer available is useful.
More often though, I see patients who are routinely applying moisturizing products multiple times a day believing that it’s anti-aging or curing their skin conditions. This results in acne lesions, milia, oily skin, seborrhea, and wasted money.
Most of our patients need an oil-free moisturizer with SPF every morning and an anti-aging product at night that may also provide some hydration to the skin.