February 19, 2006

For More Information, Contact: Cindy Foster (505) 272-0260

Springtime is around the corner, and for many people that means days to weeks of wheezing and sneezing as pollen counts go up. If running noses, itchy eyes, and scratchy throats are making life miserable year after year then it might be time to see an allergist.

An allergy is an altered reaction in the body to an ordinarily harmless substance called an allergen, said Mark Schuyler, M.D., chief of Allergy/Clinical Immunology, in the UNM School of Medicine Department of Internal Medicine. Many substances (such as animal dander, housedust mites, molds and cockroach) are capable of causing an allergic reaction. Symptoms may occur anywhere in the body but usually appear in the nose, eyes, lungs or skin. Symptoms can range from those of a common cold, or in severe cases, itching, hives and breathing difficulty, and can affect the sinuses, throat and lung.

Allergic reactions can be serious. Almost 90 percent of children and 50 percent of adults with asthma have allergies that trigger asthma symptoms, so identifying and learning to control these allergies can be the key to better asthma control.

In general, see an allergist if:

• Your nasal allergies are causing secondary symptoms such as chronic sinus infections, nasal congestion or asthma;

• Hay fever is part of your life for several months out of the year;

• Antihistamines and over-the-counter medications aren't working well and/or have significant side effects;

• Allergies are decreasing the quality of your life.

An allergist can determine which allergens are causing you problems. Treatments range from environmental controls and reduction of exposure, to a mix of antihistamines, decongestants, and nasal sprays that can relieve symptoms, to injections for desensitization (‘allergy shots').

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Contact: Cindy Foster, 272-3322