Allergies Articles

’Tis the (allergy) season

Spring is prime time for seasonal pollen allergies, and older adults shouldn’t be surprised if they develop new allergy symptoms.  Getting an allergy test to identify specific allergens and using common over-the-counter remedies can often manage symptoms. If these are ineffective, allergy shots may help. People can further protect themselves by avoiding the outdoors when the pollen count is high. (Locked) More »

Should you crank up your early allergy strategies this year?

Even if one is isolating because of the pandemic and mostly staying indoors, it will still be helpful to take allergy medications early in order to ward off spring symptoms. Doctors recommend using two drugs about three or four weeks before symptoms typically occur. One is a steroid nasal spray to fight inflammation, such as fluticasone propionate (Flonase). The other is an antihistamine to counteract histamine, a body chemical involved in allergic reactions, such as cetirizine (Zyrtec) or fexofenadine (Allegra). Once allergy season is under way, it may help to add nasal saline rinses and antihistamine eye drops to the regimen. (Locked) More »

Why am I itchy all over?

Generalized itching has many potential triggers, such as older age, dry environments, medication side effects, nerve damage, or allergens. Itch relief involves treating underlying causes, moisturizing the skin, and using a humidifier. If there is no identifiable cause of generalized itching, it may help to take gabapentin (Neurontin), use topical anesthetic patches or creams containing lidocaine, or take antidepressants such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. UV light treatments and over-the-counter anti-itch creams may also provide relief. (Locked) More »

Should I worry about a sudden swollen tongue?

A sudden swollen tongue can result from a side effect of medication like ACE inhibitors, an infection, vitamin B12 deficiency, and, in rare cases, an underactive thyroid gland. People should see a doctor if the condition doesn’t improve. (Locked) More »

COVID-19 or something else?

Many COVID-19 symptoms—such as fever, cough, or muscle aches—overlap with the symptoms of other respiratory conditions, such as influenza, a common cold, or asthma. But there are differences among the conditions. For example, a bout of the flu or a cold will not cause shortness of breath the way COVID-19 will. And while asthma can cause shortness of breath, it won’t cause a fever or body aches the way COVID-19 will. A person who’s experiencing concerning symptoms of respiratory illness should report them to a doctor. More »

Hives (Urticaria)

Hives, also called urticaria, are circumscribed swellings on the skin that often are itchy. Often they are pink or red, but they don't have to be. Hives happen when the cells in the skin called mast cells release histamine, a chemical that causes tiny blood vessels (capillaries) to leak fluid. When this leaking fluid accumulates in the skin, it forms the swellings that we recognize as hives. Hives can be triggered by physical factors such as heat, cold, exercise, sunlight, stress, sustained pressure on a skin area (such as from a belt or shoulder strap), a sudden increase in body temperature (from a fever or a hot bath or shower) or from an irritating chemical, cosmetic or soap applied to the skin. Hives also can be one symptom of a whole-body (systemic) allergic reaction to something that was: Hives probably affect about 20% of people in the United States at some time in life, with the greatest number of episodes occurring in people aged 20 to 30. In rare cases, allergic reactions that trigger hives set off a chain reaction throughout the body, resulting in a life-threatening condition called anaphylaxis. Sometimes, hives last for six weeks or more, a condition called chronic (or idiopathic) urticaria. Often, no cause is found for this chronic condition, and it usually goes away on its own after several weeks. (Locked) More »