Hay fever or allergic rhinitis (AR) is a common condition, here in the greater Salt Lake area, the United States, and globally. People may also have other conditions including allergic eye symptoms, asthma, eczema, food allergies, and chronic sinusitis. Common Salt Lake Valley/Utah allergens include:
Trees: Maple, Ash, Cedar, Cottonwood, Box Elder, Walnut, Juniper, Mulberry, Sycamore
Grasses: Bermuda and Timothy
Weeds: Ragweed, Sagebrush, Burning Bush, Lamb's Quarter, Pigweed, Russian Thistle
Symptoms of AR include:
Additional signs of AR include, but are not limited to mouth breathing, “allergic shiners” or “allergic nasal creases”, and nasal inflammation. Hay fever or seasonal allergies are mostly outdoor allergens such as pollens or molds. You can also have symptoms related to indoor allergens, called perennial allergens, such as pets, indoor molds, and dust mites.
Risk factors for allergic rhinitis include family history of allergies or asthma, higher socioeconomic class, positive allergy skin prick testing, air pollution and maternal smoking. Other factors that may decrease risk of allergic rhinitis include growing up in a farm environment, being exposed to higher grass pollen counts, having more siblings, attending daycare, and even following the Mediterranean diet.
Allergic rhinitis occurs because of an overactive immune system. The first time you see an allergen, you may not feel allergic symptoms. However, your body will have recorded it, in a process called sensitization. If you encounter that allergen again, your immune system has identified that allergen as an invader and proceeds to attack it. Your immune system overreacts by producing antibodies called Immunoglobulin E (IgE). These antibodies travel to cells that release histamine, causing inflammation and allergic symptoms.
To diagnose environmental allergies, your provider will take a detailed history, perform a physical exam and then most likely test for allergies. Skin tests show the results within 20 minutes. Treatment options include allergen avoidance, medications and allergen immunotherapy (shots/tablets). You may need to start one or more of these options for allergy control. We will discuss allergen avoidance strategies in our next blog.
Some of these medications are prescription-only and you may need a combination to have symptom control. Allergen immunotherapy involves receiving injections or taking tablets periodically over a period of three to five years. Allergen immunotherapy improves AR symptoms by decreasing sensitivity to allergens, sometimes permanently, decreases risk of developing new sensitizations, and helps decrease risk of developing asthma in children.
Do you or your family members have symptoms of hay fever/allergic rhinitis? Allergy Associates of Utah is an allergy, asthma, and immunology specialty clinic serving the greater Salt Lake City, Utah area with 2 convenient locations in Murray and West Jordan. Led by specialists Andrew Smith, MD, MS, and Tara Sarin, MD, the practice strives to help people of all ages and background achieve success. Request an appointment by phone or online at either Allergy Associates of Utah location for expert allergy and immunology care today.