Both Dr. Druhan Howell, assistant professor of pediatrics and internal medicine at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine, and Dr. Wiley Justice, an otolaryngologist, or ENT, at the USA Speech and Hearing Center, help patients during allergy and cold seasons.

“Our region presents a tough climate and environment for patients who suffer from allergies,” Dr. Justice said. “Because of this, we see many patients with chronic allergies and sinus problems.”

According to Dr. Howell, an allergist at USA, patients should be aware of the area’s pollen season.

“Tree pollen season often starts in mid-February and ends in May,” Dr. Howell said. “Because of the mild winter this year, pollen started the last week of January.”

Patients should follow pollen precautions and begin medications such as antihistamines and nasal steroids as recommended by their physician. Dr. Howell recommends large volume saline rinses, commonly known as Neti Pot, to her patients.

According to Dr. Howell, common signs and symptoms of allergies include nasal and eye itch; runny nose that is typically clear in nature; nasal congestion; sneezing with sneezing fits; red, watery eyes; itch of ear canals and throat; and post nasal drip. These symptoms can occur year round due to indoor/perennial allergens such as dust mites, cat, dog and cockroach or can occur seasonally due to pollens.

Allergy prevention is primarily based on avoidance of known allergens, Dr. Howell said. Patients should also be aware of the following:

• For indoor allergens such as animals, it helps to keep the animals outside of the home and to deep clean the home as often as possible.
• For dust mites, special encasements for pillows, mattresses and box springs can help. Also wash linens weekly in hot water (130 degrees) and dry on high heat. 
• For cockroaches, perform extermination and thorough cleaning. 
• For pollens, keep doors and windows closed during pollen season, and stay inside on high pollen count days and during early morning hours (5 to 10 a.m.) when pollens are at the peak for the day.  Do not hang clothes and linens out to dry during pollen season.

“Allergists and ENT physicians frequently work together to manage patients,” Dr. Howell said. “I typically refer to an ENT when sinusitis is chronic and does not clear after standard rounds of treatment or if I think surgical intervention is necessary.”

Dr. Justice normally refers a patient to see an allergist if he has seen the same patient at least two to three times in one year and if they seem to have chronic allergies or recurring sinusitis.

Sinus infections, unlike allergies, are caused by the common cold, viruses, bacteria, or fungal infections and are commonly confused with allergy symptoms.

According to Dr. Justice, symptoms for a sinus infection include the following:

• Nasal congestion
• Pressure in cheeks and forehead
• Burning sensation in the nose
• Bad headache
• Yellow-green nasal discharge
• Toothache
• Fever development in cases of acute sinusitis
• Postnasal drip often with a bad taste
• Cough

“If a patient suspects they have a head cold, take over-the-counter medicine like Mucinex, do saline rinses, and take hot steamy showers,” Dr. Justice said. “If you do not see improvement after two to three days and nasal fluid is green and yellow, make an appointment to see your physician.”

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