Thursday, 19 June 2014

Is This How You Feel During An Allergic Rhinitis Attack?

Yeah, these words pretty much sum up how I feel when I get an awful attack. Mike and Kate pretty much feels the same too when hay fever strikes. Check out their guest posts here and here

But looking at things more positively, I hope after these feelings pass us by, you will cherish your "non-sneezy" moments even more and make the best use of it :) Because you never know when the allergens decide to stir trouble in your nose!

Monday, 16 June 2014

Doc Talk: Immunize Yourself Against Allergens

Source: Mind Your Body, The Straits Times - 12 June 2014.

This is a continuation from Doc Talk: The Flu that Isn't. In this write up, Dr Soh Jian Yee, an associate consultant at the division of paediatric allergy, immunology and rheumatology at National University Hospital talks about allergen immunotherapy. So what is allergen immunotherapy?

"A treatment which desensitizes the body to an allergen over time...It involves giving the patient the allergens which cause the medical problem, starting with tiny doses and slowly increasing the doses over time... Immunotherapy alters the body's response to the allergens to ease the symptoms and inflammation."

According to Dr Soh, immunotherapy has the following benefits:
1. Its beneficial effects last much longer than conventional pharmacotherapy (drugs)

2. If drugs fails to control the allergic symptoms, immunotherapy can be added to the treatment regimen

3. Long term cost-effectiveness

However, immunotherapy is not perfect. Why so?
1. Requires loads of patience as one must complete the treatment course to enjoy its full benefits.

2. Takes a longer time to work compared to antihistamines and intranasal steriods. Many patients see a significant response only after 3-6 months.

All said, in my opinion, most doctors generally recommend immunotherapy only for severe cases of allergic rhinitis as this method requires much time and financial commitment from the patients, which not many can do so. This is where sublingual immunotherapy comes into the picture. The patient is given a drop or tablet containing small doses of the allergen extract under the tongue. This newer form of immunotherapy can be administered at home without medical supervision. Has anyone tried this method before?

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Living the Life with Allergies (Guest Post- Kate)

I am thankful for the presence of social media, which allowed me to make friends across the world. I would like to thank Kate, blogger of A Life of Allergies and Sneezing for taking part in this Q&A. Kate suffers from severe nasal allergies and is currently a grad school student in anatomy PhD program.

Q1 Can you give us a background of your allergies?

Kate: I started getting allergies when I was about 13 years old.  Before that I didn’t have any at all.  I now am allergic to: pretty much any animals with fur, cats, dogs, and horses being the worst.  Dust (dust mites, etc).  Feathers.  All kinds of pollen, like trees, weeds, grasses, even flowers.  Ragweed and sage seem to be the worst.  Mold, smoke, strong scents like perfumes, etc.  
or something they use in some paper products, some detergents, and fabric softeners, milk.  Probably some other things too I can’t think of right now.  I have been allergy tested a few times.  I tried shots when I was about 18, for about a year but my allergies actually got a bit worse over that time.  My allergies have gotten worse over the years, except for the last 2 or 3 years, but this spring seems to be worse.  There really isn’t anyone in my family with allergies.  My aunt has mild hay fever but I think that’s it. I have allergies all year round, but winter isn’t as bad, and spring and fall are probably the worst.  My allergies can get so bad that I have to stay home and sometimes aren’t able to do anything at all.  At the worst I can sneeze over 50 times in a row, my eyes and nose run constantly, my nose and sinuses are ears are stuffed up and my eyes are swollen up, and it feels all itchy in that area.  I don’t really have asthma attacks anymore after I stopped drinking milk, but when my allergies are bad I can get kinda wheezy.

Q2 What medications have you tried (& doesn’t work) and what are you currently taking now?

Kate: I have tried so many, and they barely work.  Only Benadryl seems to really work, but it knocks me out and after I wake up am still very groggy.  I have tried:  allergra-d, Claritin-d, zyertec-d, Sudafed, clarinex, nasalcrom, flonase, nasocort, nasonex, singulair, and maybe one or 2 more over the years, but I’m not sure.

Right now I am on: Zyertec-D, nasonex, and singulair.  I also take Sudafed and Benadryl sometimes.

Q3 How do allergy affect your life/lifestyle and how do you cope with it?

Kate: It affects me a lot.  I used to be very outgoing, but now am kinda shy and very embarrassed by my allergies.  They also keep me from being able to do many things I used to.  Being congested all the time messed up my singing voice, and I had to stop playing soccer because I was too allergic to the grass.  Some people’s houses I can’t go to because of pets, and sometimes I can’t go out because my allergies are too bad.  I also have to miss school sometimes and its slowing down my graduate work. I cope by trying to go out as much as I can, although I sometimes push it too much, or go out when there are too many allergens around and I end up making myself worse.

Q4 How do your family respond to your allergy attack?

Kate: They used to be pretty worried back in the first few years, but now they try to ignore it because they know I don’t like the attention.

Q5 If you could use 3 single words to describe an allergy attack, what would they be? 

Kate: Embarrassing, exhausting, interfering.

Q6 Which is the most annoying symptom of your allergies you wish could just disappear?

Kate: Sneezing.  I sneeze so much and for so long.  It interferes with conversations and can be bothersome to people, especially in quiet places.  It can be messy and it also tires me out.

Q7 Have you tried any alternative healing / natural remedies / supplements for your allergies? If yes, which have you tried and what is your response

Kate: I tried neti-pot but the water would never come out of the other nostril.  I found I have reactions to most essential oils.  The herbs I have tried either they didn’t work or I had an allergic reaction to them.  I tried acupuncture but that didn’t help at all.  Vitamins didn’t seem to do much.  Raw honey and apple vinegar didn’t do anything either.

Q8 If no, which one of these alternative healing / natural remedies / supplements are you most willing to give it a try and why?

Kate: I am willing to try pretty much anything to see if it will help.

Q9 What is the best allergy advice you have ever received? 

Kate: It has to do with taking showers.  I used to have such a hard time with them because I would sneeze constantly during them and my nose would run really badly.  It made it very hard to shower and shave my legs, etc.  I was told to try turning on the shower really hot, waiting for a while, then sit in the bathroom before I showered and wait till my sneezing slowed down.  It take a while, but when I do that, now I am not sneezing as much and my nose isn’t as runny in the shower so it makes it much easier. 

Oh, and the other one, which is pretty obvious and I should have known it was back when I first got allergies, I thought as long as the cat or dog or whatever wasn’t in the same room I’d be ok.  About 2 years into having allergies, I was told that animal dander could linger even after the animal no longer lived in the house.  So then I was able to avoid many bad allergy attacks.

In case you missed it, this is another Q&A on Living the Life with Allergies, with Mike Noblin.

Friday, 6 June 2014

Doc Talk: The Flu that Isn't

Source: Mind Your Body, The Straits Times - 5 June 2014

This is a good article from our local newspaper published yesterday, discussing about the lack of awareness of allergic rhinitis (AR). Indeed, when I first started having the symptoms of sneezing, running nose and itchy eyes on a regularly basis, I thought I had a recurrent flu. It is not easy to differentiate for early sufferers, even more so for kids. You can refer to this quick guide to help you differentiate.

Dr Soh Jian Yi, an associate consultant at the division of paediatric allergy, immunology and rheumatology at National University Hospital said that the low rate of diagnosis for allergic rhinitis is likely due to lack of awareness. 

"The symptoms are either ignored, attributed to frequent flu, asthma or even naughty behaviour."

Allergic rhinitis can lead to the following:
Discomfort and disturbed sleep
Obstructive sleep apnoea
Impairment of daily activities
Learning and performance (be it in school or at work for adults)
Decreased quality of life
Chronic rhinosinusitis

" But awareness and diagnosis of AR is only half the battle. The other half is to find the appropriate treatment for it..."

Dr Soh will discuss about treatment for allergic rhinitis next week. Stay tuned!

Note: I blanked out an ad in the newspaper cutting to keep the article clean looking :)