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The Big Sneeze

Flower copyThe nose knows when seasonal allergies—or allergic rhinitis—come to call in southern Nevada. This very common condition affects 40 percent of U.S. kids and 30 percent of adults, causing  inflammation inside the nose—and those telltale signs of sneezing, itching, dripping, and congestion.

Invasion alert

It all starts with the body’s immune response to an allergen, such as pollen. The immune system tries to fight the foreign invader. Part of that reaction is the release of a substance called histamine—the trigger of those pesky (and often persistent) nasal symptoms, such as sneezing and nasal congestion. Other symptoms can crop up, too, such as:

  • Itchy, watery, red, or swollen eyes.
  • Sinus pressure and headaches
  • Scratchy throat.
  • Hives
  • Eczema

“Many residents here in the desert are surprised when they get seasonal allergies,” says Sean McKnight, MD, a board-certified Sean McKnight, MD, a Board-certified allergist and
clinical immunologist who specializes in treating allergies, asthma, and immunology conditions. “But we actually have long allergy seasons because of our warm climate. Spring allergies run rampant in the Las Vegas valley from March through June, with the main culprits being pollen from mulberry and olive trees. Then once the heat of the summer is over, we get another round when we experience our second allergy season in September and October.”

“Interestingly,” Dr. McKnight continues, “many of the allergen producing plants in Las Vegas are not native to the area. Rather, they are plants and trees brought in from other areas by our residents.”

Treat the sneeze

Several methods can help combat allergic rhinitis—and it often takes a combination to get symptoms under control. The first step is to figure out  what allergen is causing the problem (your doctor can help with that) and then do your best to avoid it. You can also:

  • Rinse your nasal passages with saline solution or use a saline spray to help rid your nose of allergens.
  • Try over-the-counter or prescription medications.
  • Consider allergy shots (immunotherapy). Given over a period of time (usually 3 to 5 years), immunotherapy actually modifies the immune system, helping reduce sensitivity to an allergen. Effective in 85 percent of patients, it reduces or even eliminates symptoms and can be a good option when medications aren’t providing relief.

Learn more about allergies at StRoseReach.org.
Sources: American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology; National Institutes of Health

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