Guest Author: Joel Laury, MD, is a assistant professor of medicine at The Commonwealth Medical College.
Dr. Laury is board certified in allergy and immunology. He graduated from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, in New York City and did his internship and residency in internal medicine at the Bronx Municipal Hospital Center. He completed his fellowship in allergy, asthma and immunology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and is in private practice in Scranton.
This column is a special feature the third Monday of every month of Health & Exercise Forum in cooperation with The Commonwealth Medical College.
An allergy is the body’s immune system overreacting to something that is not harmful. People can be allergic to medicines, foods, pollens, animals, molds, latex rubber, and many other things. Allergic rhinitis, sometimes called hay fever or rose fever, happens when people have allergies in her nose. They may sneeze, get a stuffy nose, runny nose, itchy nose, and feel like to have a cold that does not get better.
Often, people with allergic rhinitis have itchy, watery eyes, known as allergic conjunctivitis, or may develop asthma. Some people may get rashes, such as hives (urticaria) or eczema (atopic dermatitis). More than 50 million Americans have allergic rhinitis, and over 17 million adult, and 7 million children, have asthma. (1) All allergic diseases, including food allergies, have been increasing rapidly over the past century.
It sometimes can be hard to tell whether someone is suffering from allergic rhinitis, a cold, a sinus infection, or other causes of nasal misery. Some people feel worse near perfumes, cleaning fluids, would smoke or cigarette smoke. Generally, a cold should go away in about a week.
There are 3 main parts to treating allergies. The first step is to be tested, so that people can avoid what they are allergic to. This is called environmental control, and there are no side effects to this.
The next step involves taking medicines. Many good allergy medicines are now over the counter, and might work as well as prescription drugs. Of course, these only work while you are taking them, and some may have side effects, such as drowsiness, or nose bleeds.
If people are still suffering, then allergy shots may be prescribed. These are more for long term relief, and are continued for months or years. After stopping, many people may do well for many years afterwards! Sometimes a reaction may happen after a shot - such as itching, redness, hives, or difficulty breathing. Recently, the FDA has approved some allergens for sublingual (under the tongue) immunotherapy. So far, only ragweed and grass pollens are FDA approved. These might be somewhat safer than shots, but also may be somewhat less effective. They have been used in Europe for years, but only were approved in the US last year.
TIPS FOR ATHLETES AND OUTDOOR ENTHUSIASTS WITH ALLERGIES:
Whether you have allergic respiratory problems from rhinitis or asthma, you many benefit from conditioning your airways with a 10 to 15 minute warm-up before and cool-down after the activity. This may serve to gradually prepare your lungs for an increased demand.
In addition to preventing dehydration on hot and humid days, constant hydration is very important for the athlete with allergies to prevent dry airways in athletes.
Guidelines for Athletes with Allergies from the National Athletic Trainers Association:
Know the signs and symptoms of asthma (coughing, wheezing, tightness in chest, shortness of breath).
Plan for the Problem
Some schools have a file on each student athlete with a allergic or asthmatic problem which requires medication. The file includes information such as medical doctor release and instruction, emergency contacts and medications. Students must have their medications on hand before they can enter the field. The National Athletic Trainers Association recommends using a peak flow meter to monitor at risk players and can determine when a player can return to the field.
Practice in Climate Control
If possible, find an alternate practice facility with climate control for athletes at risk. Plan practices for these athletes when the pollen count is low. Check the newspaper or internet for pollen counts in your area. Training by the water, (ocean) where there is a breeze and less pollen is helpful.
Shower and change clothing immediately after being outdoors
Modify Workout: during a flare up, do less aerobic exercise to limit stress on respiratory system. Try strength training indoors instead.
Modify Environment: when pollen count is high, keep windows shut at home and in your car….use air-conditioning.
Keep pets out of your bedroom…especially when sleeping
Dry clothing in dryer…do not hang on clothesline outdoors
Source: http://acaai.org/news/facts-statistics/allergies; National Athletic Trainers Association
This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at The Commonwealth Medical College.