Allergies beginning to act up? |

Allergies beginning to act up?

Dr. Drew Werner

If you rarely suffer from sneezing fits, a nose that runs like the Colorado River in spring or itchy eyes with the texture of coarse sandpaper, you may not appreciate what it is to truly suffer from allergies. If your dream is to invent tissue with the strength of galvanized steel and the softness of goose down, you’re probably already ahead of me.

Dear Doc: Help! My allergies are really acting up, what can I do?

” Sniffling and sneezing in Gypsum

Dear Sniffling: Let’s start with allergies 101. First, whatever causes an allergy is called an allergen. Next, there are three basic types of allergies: inhaled (pollens, dusts, grasses, etc.), ingested or injected (food, medicines, bee stings, etc.) and topical (poison ivy, chemicals, etc.). Each of these can come in various strengths. Some things are absolute allergens. That is, any one exposed to them will have a reaction. Most are relative allergens. These are the allergies that increase as the degree of exposure goes up. Thus, we have good and bad days, seasons or years depending on how much of the allergen we’re exposed to. For example, someone with mild grass allergies might be able to sit comfortably on a deck but would suffer mowing the lawn (good excuse to get out of that job). Conversely, someone with severe grass allergies might start sneezing if the person at the end of the street just mowed their lawn.

Different types of allergies result in different symptoms. Inhaled allergies cause the well known sneezing, itchy and watery eyes, runny nose and general blahs. Ingested allergies most commonly cause hives, skin itching and swelling. Topical allergies may cause a very itchy rash with swelling, redness and small vesicles (like blisters). If severe enough, they all can cause wheezing, shortness of breath, airway swelling and a trip to the emergency room.

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Despite these miserable symptoms, relief can be found. Avoidance is the best means of prevention ” especially for inhaled and food allergies. When you need to reach for therapy, antihistamines are a good first choice. These come in two flavors. The traditional antihistamines, like benadryl, are over the counter. They work well, but can be quite drying and often sedating. The newer antihistamines are very well tolerated and include several prescription medications such as Allegra, Clarinex and Zyrtec. Recently approved over the counter is loratadine, which is generic Claritin. The advantages of these newer antihistamines are fewer side effects and a much longer duration of action ” up to 24 hours.

Other medications include nasal sprays (the prescription variety) and a drug called Singulair, which also treats asthma. Topical creams and pseudoephedrine hydrochloride, commonly known as Sudafed, are also choices.

Finally, there are several prescription eye drops for itchy, watery eyes, which may not respond well to the other treatments.

Generally, avoid sedating antihistamines in children when it might affect school performance or in yourself if you’re driving, operating machinery or just need to be at your best. Sudafed needs to be used with caution if you have heart problems, high blood pressure, palpitations, difficulty sleeping or thyroid disease. Over the counter “gets the red out” eye drops and nasal spray decongestants need to be used with caution and only for a few days due to unwanted side effects. If you are pregnant, you should always check with your doctor before taking anything.

While food and topical allergies are generally with us forever, inhaled allergies wax and wane with time and exposure. Generally, however, the more intense the exposure, the worse the symptoms. That is why some seasons are worse than others. Due to the climate that year, pollens, grasses, trees or molds may be at higher levels. If their levels are up, the symptoms go up too. At the same time, people who “never had allergies before” may suddenly be symptomatic.

Another interesting fact is that allergies never develop the first time you get exposed to the offending allergen. First you need to be sensitized, which allows the body to prepare its allergic response. The symptoms of the allergy may follow at the next exposure or years later.

Whatever you try, follow the directions. More than recommended is not better. Avoidance is best, but that’s pretty hard with outdoor allergies living here in Colorado. If one thing doesn’t work, something else might. Combinations can very helpful as well.

Remember, our health fairs are Saturday. They are being held here in Eagle and in Glenwood Springs at Valley View Hospital. I need to correct my article from last week. The health fair in Eagle is not the 9News health fair, but the 9Health fair. The major sponsors are the Eagle Lions Club, my office (the Eagle Valley Medical Center), and the Eagle and Gypsum fire departments. There are other local sponsors and many volunteers, as well. The Valley View Health fair in

Glenwood is of course sponsored by Valley View Hospital. To all the sponsors and volunteers, a big thank you is in order! The details are as follows: Valley View Medical Office Building, 1830 Blake Ave.

Glenwood Springs, 7 a.m. to noon, enter at Glenwood Medical Associates at the lower level. For more information, visit

This excellent Web site is a great resource for seasonal medical information as well as general information on Valley View Hospital and the specialty and primary care physicians there.

The details on Eagle 9Health Fair are: Eagle Valley Middle School, 747 East Third St., Eagle, 8-11:30 a.m.

Dr. Drew Werner of the Eagle Valley Medical Center writes a weekly column for the Daily. He encourages health questions. Write him by e-mail to or c/o Editor, Vail Daily, P.O. Box 81, Vail, 81658.

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