About Allergies

Allergies are caused by the immune system’s reaction to things in our environment. The things you are allergic to are called allergens. Allergens can range from the things such as pollens and molds to food and chemicals. By far the allergens that cause the most sinus problems are those that we inhale such as pollens and molds.

When the body comes into contact with something to which it is allergic, it produces histamine, a chemical that causes swelling and inflammation. If allergies are severe and persistent enough, chronic conditions such as rhinitis, sinusitis, or asthma can result.

Allergies affect the sinuses when airborne allergens come into contact with the mucus lining in the nose and sinuses. The release of histamine and the resulting swelling can cause symptoms that include:

  • Sneezing
  • Congestion
  • Post-nasal drip
  • Itchy and watery eyes
  • Irritation in the nose and throat
  • Circles under the eyes caused by increased blood flow to the sinuses

In this part of Texas, allergies are very common due to the large number of pollen-producing plants. These include ash, mountain cedar (one of the worst), elm, grass, oak, pecan and ragweed. Non-plant allergens include mold, house dust mites, and pet dander.

Types of Allergies ~ Diagnosis and Treatment
Pet Allergies

Cats are the most common cause of pet allergies, but people can be allergic to many other animals and pets.

  • Dogs
  • Horses
  • Guinea pigs
  • Hamsters and gerbils
  • Birds
  • Rabbits

The most common cause of allergic reactions to animals are the enzymes in the animals’ saliva and dander. There is no cure for these types of allergies, but reactions can be controlled with the use of medications and various over the counter products.

Bee and Wasp Allergies

Another form of animal allergy is caused by the venom produced by stinging and biting animals.

  • Wasp stings
  • Bee stings
  • Scorpion stings
  • Snake bites

Some people are severely allergic to wasp stings and bee stings. These people can go into shock, and possibly even die, if they are stung. Fortunately most people do not react this severely, but bee and wasp stings can be very uncomfortable even if they don’t require medical attention.

Unfortunately there is no surgical treatment for allergies, but there are many ways to avoid and control allergic reactions, some of which you can read about here. Texas Sinus Center also offers allergy testing.

It’s well known that people can be allergic to things outside, but did you know that indoor allergies are just as prevalent? In some instances patients have allergies to items in their homes and don’t even realize that those allergens are triggering their allergic reactions. Common indoor allergies include:

  • Dust
  • Dust mites
  • Animal saliva and dander
  • Mold
  • Mold spores

There is no cure for allergies, but there are many ways to control allergic reactions. Texas Sinus Center offers allergy testing. Allergy testing arms the patient with the knowledge he or she needs to avoid allergens and allergic reactions.

Outdoor allergies are a problem everywhere, especially in Texas. Pollen producing plants are everywhere in South Texas, causing coughing, sneezing, runny noses, and asthma. Common outdoor allergies include:

  • Grass pollen
  • Mountain Cedar
  • Oak
  • Ragweed
  • Pine

Allergic reactions are caused by the pollen that these (and other) plants and trees release into the air. Pollen which reaches the nostrils and lungs is treated as a foreign object by the body, and the body begins to produce mucus and coughing as a way to remove the pollen. Allergies are a defense mechanism, but sometimes the reactions can become acute.

There is no cure for allergies, but there are many ways to control allergic reactions, several of which you can read about here. Texas Sinus Center also offers allergy testing services.

Allergens are in the air all the time, but many plants have a certain time of year during which they pollinate. Seasonal allergies can cause the same symptoms as other allergies, such as sneezing, itchy and watery eyes, and asthma, and can become acute.

Texas is known for its pollen producing plants, as well as for the seasonal allergies they cause.

Spring
  • Ash
  • Elm
  • Pine
  • Oak
  • Pecan
  • Hickory
  • Poplar
  • Walnut
Summer/Early Fall
  • Ragweed
  • Bermuda grass
Autumn/Winter

Although colder weather often brings seasonal allergy relief to many, residents in the Hill Country of Texas will often seen an increase in allergy symptoms. December to February is the pollination season for cedar; its buoyant pollen covers cars and sidewalks and can cause severe allergic reactions.

Many times patients are able to treat seasonal allergies with medications, but some people react so severely to certain seasonal allergies that medical attention is required.

There is no cure for allergies, but Texas Sinus Center does offer allergy testing. These tests can help patients make decisions about what allergens to avoid in order to be as symptom-free as possible.

Allergy tests are performed in cases where allergies are suspected to play a role in your problem. There are two ways that we are able to perform allergy testing. The first and most common is by exposing your skin to variety of substances that can cause allergies and then monitoring your skins reaction. The second is by using a blood test called RAST (radioallergosorbant test) using blood. Dr. Atkins and his team will decide which test is right for you. If allergies are not a root cause of your sinus problems, knowing this will allow us to treat your sinus problem in a less invasive, more targeted way.

Although there is really no cure for allergies, with new techniques and medications, it is possible to live without experiencing the troubling symptoms associated with them. Many people have only mild allergies and may choose to live with them or just treat them with over the counter medications. There are however patients who are miserable from their allergies. For anyone whos allergies are more than just an annoyance we recommend that you are allergy tested.

Medications and Treatment
  • Avoidance – The best way to decrease your allergy symptoms is through lifestyle changes aimed at avoiding the substances you are allergic to. We recognize that this is easier said than done but, with new tools and products we can help you make avoidance a simpler than it used to be.
  • Nasal Irrigation – Using an over the counter saline spray or irrigation system regularly will cleanse and moisten the sinuses.
  • Antihistamines – Act by blocking the release of histaine, a chemical produced by the body that triggers an inflammatory reaction that can produce swelling of the nose, congestion, itching, sneezing, and a runny nose. They are available as either a prescription pill or nasal spray or over the counter either as a pill.
  • Nasal Steriod Sprays – Reduce the inflammatory reponse and are the preferred treatment for mild allergies. They are very effective at reducing nasal congestions and irritation.
  • Leukotriene Blockers – Leukotriene blockers reduce mucosal inflammation. They are usually used in combination with some of the other treatments listed on this page.
  • Decongestants – Available as either a nasal spray or pill. We do not recommend nasal decongestant sprays as they are addicting and have a high potential for rebound congestion if used for more than 3 days. The only oral decongestant available is pseudophedrine. It acts by reducing blood flow and therefore shrinking the membranes in your nose. Pseudophedrine is a stimulant and there are several drawbacks to its use such as elevated blood pressure, jitteriness, anxiousness, and poor sleep.
  • Immunotherapy – Also known as desensitization, is when you are given a very tiny amount of the substance (allergen) you are allergic to, enough to stimulate your immune system but not so much as to cause a full-blown allergic reaction. Over time, your immune system will build up a tolerance to the allergen, and allergy symptoms will diminish.