Seasonal and year-round allergies are extremely common. Hang around with an ENT and you’ll be convinced everyone has them. Many seasonal allergy sufferers put up with untreated or partially treated symptoms for a few weeks of the year. Many year-round sufferers do the same, convinced that “nothing really helps.” What a shame!
Nasal allergies are very treatable, often with a combination of pills, intranasal sprays, saline irrigation, and sometimes even allergy shots. But there are also conditions that mimic allergies that you should look out for, either because they require a different treatment or because they can be dangerous. Your Ear, Nose and Throat doctor can help you figure out if any of these conditions exist:
DEVIATED SEPTUM — This is a common cause of nasal obstruction and can create a persistent stuffy nose on one or both sides that does not respond to allergy treatment. It can now be corrected with a minimally invasive, almost painless procedure with minimal downtime.
TURBINATE HYPERTROPHY — Often seen in patients with a longstanding, untreated allergy, it is another cause of a stuffy nose that fails to respond to medication. The spongy tissue on the side of the nose actually enlarges over time blocking breathing passages. This is also easy to surgically correct.
CHRONIC SINUSITIS — Chronic sinusitis can create a chronic obstruction, excessive mucous and facial pressure. It can be treated with medication and if necessary, surgery.
VASOMOTOR RHINITIS — This disorder is especially common in the elderly and is manifest with excessive clear mucous, causing runny nose, postnasal drip, or both. Although it may respond to allergy treatment, a special class of medication exists to treat it.
ADENOIDITIS / ADENOID HYPERTROPHY — More commonly a problem in the pediatric population. The adenoid pad is located at the back of the nose and is made up tonsil-like tissue. It tends to go away in adults but can persist, be obstructive or become infected. If it is just enlarged, it can cause obstruction but infection can cause copious postnasal drip, cough, and a sore throat. Adenoid infection or enlargement can be treated with medicine and if necessary, surgery.
MASS OR TUMOR — Although more rare, sinonasal tumors should not be missed. An exam in the office is necessary to rule out this unlikely but potentially dangerous diagnosis in a person with one-sided nasal obstruction.
LARYNGOPHARYNGEAL (“SILENT”) REFLUX — throat symptoms are often blamed on allergy, but if symptoms are primarily in the throat, it could be silent reflux. Your ENT can often tell the difference during an office exam and treat it appropriately.
NASAL POLYPS — This is thought to be caused by an out-of-control allergy to (oftentimes) mold and is manifest by watery growths within the nose that obstruct breathing and make a lot of mucous. They can also obstruct the sinuses and lead to infection. No amount of allergy therapy alone will get rid of nasal polyps. A longstanding relationship with an ENT is often needed to control this complex problem.