For appointments or questions call (540) 283-6000.

Answering Your Allergy Questions

allergy sufferer

If you think allergies are worse in Roanoke than other cities, you’re not alone. Moderate climates like Roanoke with a lush environment and lots of wet weather may have pollens or molds throughout most of the year. With all these pollens and mold particles trapped in the atmosphere, residents can experience year-round allergies to mold and fungi, grasses, and dust.

It’s normal for allergies to wax and wane throughout your lifetime. Changes to your environment, moving to a new house or working in a new building can sometimes trigger these allergies to go haywire.

Greg Zachmann, M.D., an accomplished Otolaryngologist / ENT Physician and Surgeon at JSC, breaks down the causes of allergy symptoms and differentiates them from symptoms of other illnesses.

“People who’ve had no trouble in years past can start having trouble over time, and we work to make them better,” says Dr. Zachmann.

What are Allergies?

Allergies occur when the body’s immune system overreacts to specific particles such as plant pollens, molds, dust mites, animal hair, foods, medicines, and insect venom. These particles, called allergens, are not infectious and should not trigger an immune response in a non-allergic person.

People with sensitivity to tree pollen have symptoms in March or April; grass allergens are active in the early to mid-summer; weed pollens in the late summer; allergic reactions to mold spores peak in the fall with the fallen leaves.

You can still have allergies outside of the spring or fall. Molds active from moist soil and other indoor allergens can irritate your sinuses.

Allergies are sometimes referred to as [RS1] hayfever, but allergies don’t produce any elevation of temperature. You should never have an actual fever with allergies,” explains Dr. Zachmann.

Perennial allergic rhinitis occurs year-round and can result from sensitivity to pet dander, molds and yeasts, houseplants, and dust mites. Air pollution or smoking can aggravate allergic rhinitis. Patients with year-round allergies may notice more symptoms of a stuffy nose (congestion) than sneezing or itching.

Allergy Symptoms vs. Cold Symptoms

As mentioned, common allergy symptoms include sneezing, itchy nose or eyes, fatigue, and sinus pressure. Allergies will typically acclimate gradually and remain more constant for weeks over time. 

Symptoms that someone with a cold or other illness could experience include fever, body aches, more significant malaise, as well as a sore throat, nausea, or diarrhea. These symptoms tend to change from day-to-day.

Standard allergy medications like antihistamines, nasal steroid sprays, and nasal saline rinses can also be helpful for initial common cold symptoms.

“Both of them can be very similar when they first start up,” says Dr. Zachmann, describing how nasal congestion, a runny nose, post-nasal drainage, and cough are all symptoms of both allergies and illness. “Fever would typically indicate an infection like a cold or COVID . COVID symptoms include losing your smell or taste, more severe levels of illness, chest, or pulmonary symptoms, or when you cannot get out of bed.”

Both prolonged cold viruses as well as allergies can trigger chronic sinus inflammation causing chronic sinusitis. Sinus pressure, discolored drainage, recurrent infections, or worsening symptoms are all cues for someone to talk to a doctor.

“We’re happy to tackle your problems, don’t feel like you have to go on with them,” says Dr. Zachmann. “Over-the-counter medicines are very confusing for people to figure out what’s best to take.  Many people benefit from getting a doctor’s advice.”

Allergy Treatments

Allergy sufferers don’t have to suffer. The medical professionals at Jefferson Surgical Center can help alleviate various symptoms to get your allergies under control.

Allergy treatments can reduce the severity of your symptoms as well as the associated swelling and sinus obstruction. This helps decrease the amount of sinus infections.

The following treatments and guidelines suggested by our medical professionals include, but are not limited to:

  1. Avoidance of the allergens. This requires identifying the specific allergen through testing Skin testing is better than blood tests. You may have tested negative for allergies in the past, but remember, your reaction to allergens can change over time as your environment changes.
  2. Allergy shots or allergy drop therapy (immunotherapy), which reduces or prevents the actual allergic response.  These actually make you less allergic, instead of just treating symptoms. 
  3. Medications. To try to block or relieve the symptoms of an allergic response, your doctor may suggest over-the-counter meds like Claritin (generic is loratadine), Xyzal, Zyrtec, or Allegra .  Nasal steroid sprays like Nasacort AQ and Flonase are often recommended as well.   Many are now available over the counter without a prescription and are less expensive.  Nasal saline rinses twice a day help as much as other treatments. However, doctors caution against the use of decongestants if you have blood pressure or heart issues.

“Many of the over-the-counter products for sinuses or allergies often combine a lot of ingredients that can have varying side effects,” says Dr. Zachmann. “We can help by making specific recommendations personalized for your healthcare needs to find the best medicines for you.”

If you have not had relief from over-the-counter medications, you might consider being evaluated by an Allergy Specialist at JSC.