Sinus and Allergies Services
Charleston ENT & Allergy understands that allergies make even the most simple tasks unbearable. Whether your symptoms are seasonal or last throughout the year, we have testing and treatment services available for patients of all ages. We even have options that allow you to self-administer allergy treatments at home.
Our allergy team combines the latest medical technology with cutting edge research in order to provide children and adults with the highest possible level of care. We provide allergy testing services and immunotherapy that includes allergy shots and allergy drops (sublingual immunotherapy). If you want some clarity back in your life, schedule an appointment today.
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What are Allergies?
Allergies are simply an overreaction of the immune system to a substance foreign to the body. The body's immune system treats the substance (called an allergen) as an invader and tries to defend itself, resulting in symptoms that can range from annoying to significantly debilitating.
When exposed to allergens the immune system produces antibodies that cause cells in the body to release chemicals, including histamine, into the bloodstream. It's the release of these chemicals that cause allergic reactions, affecting a person's eyes, nose, throat, lungs, skin, or gastrointestinal tract.
Signs and Symptoms
Allergic reactions have many forms. The most common are itchy and watery eyes or an itchy nose, sneezing, nasal congestion, throat tightness and trouble breathing. Repeated sinus infections and ear infection can also be related to allergic disease.
In rare instances, if the sensitivity to an allergen is extreme, an adult or child may experience anaphylaxis (or anaphylactic shock) ? a sudden, severe allergic reaction involving various systems in the body (such as the skin, respiratory tract, gastrointestinal tract, and cardiovascular system).
Severe reactions to any allergen which require immediate medical attention include:
- difficulty breathing
- swelling (particularly of the face, throat, lips, and tongue in cases of food allergies)
- rapid drop in blood pressure
- tightness of the throat
- hoarse voice
If you or someone you know are experiencing any of these symptoms, please seek medical attention immediately.
To determine the cause of an allergy, we perform minimally invasive tests for the most common environmental and food allergens in the Charleston area. These tests are safe enough to be done on infants, but become more reliable once children are over 2 years old. After evaluating these test results, your provider will correlate these results with the symptoms you experience and your response to medicines to confirm your diagnosis and guide your treatment plan.
While some allergies are fairly easy to identify, others are much less obvious. If you or your child has cold-like symptoms lasting longer than a week or two or develops a "cold" at the same time every year, investigating for allergic disease may be appropriate.
Treatment & Prevention
No all allergies can be cured, but it is commonly possible to relieve symptoms. The easiest way is to reduce or eliminate one's exposure to allergens. If reducing exposure isn't possible or effective, medications to treat the patient's symptoms may be prescribed. These may include a combination of over the counter and prescription medicines. Some patient's have symptoms that are best managed with daily use of medicines, others can control their symptoms by taking medicines only during the seasons or around exposures that affect them most.
In some cases, your provider may recommend immunotherapy (allergy shots or allergy drops). During immunotherapy, a patient receives consistent doses of the allergen to which they are allergic. This dose is increased slowly over time until a maintenance dose is achieved. Patients often will feel improvement in their symptoms after 2-4 months of treatment. However, it is important to remain on immunotherapy for at least 3-5 years to obtain the best long term benefit. In fact, some allergy patients control their symptoms best by remaining on immunotherapy for several years.
If you are a parent with an allergic child, you should educate this child early and often, not only about the allergy itself, but also the reaction they will have if they consume or come into contact with the allergen. Parents should also inform any and all caregivers (childcare personnel, teachers, extended family members, parents of your child's friends, etc.) about their child's allergies.
Avoidance of the allergen, medical treatments and sometimes allergy treatments are the most commonly recommended treatments for allergy symptoms. Surgery does not make allergies go away but is sometimes helpful at alleviating associated symptoms of nasal stuffiness, recurrent sinus infections, nasal polyps, and frequent nose bleeds. Your provider at Charleston ENT can help with a comprehensive assessment of all of your nasal symptoms and can offer the latest medical, allergic and surgical treatments.
A healthy body requires a healthy nose. Not only does it allow you to smell fresh flowers or warm apple pie?it also acts as the main gate to your respiratory system. The nose filters out dust and other allergens, as well as helps to regulate the temperature and moisture your respiratory system needs. When there is a problem with your nose, the whole body suffers.
The most common nasal symptoms can be very annoying and are very treatable: Stuffiness, drainage, runny nose, nose bleeds, decreased sense of smell, sneezing, sinus pressure, and recurrent infections.
The most common problems associated with the nose are:
- Deviated Septum
- Turbinate Hypertrophy (swollen tissue in nose with stuffiness)
- Sinusitis (infection and inflammation of the sinuses)
- Non-Allergic Rhinitis (nasal drainage not from allergies)
- Allergic Rhinitis (drainage, stuffiness, sneezing, itching)
- Epistaxis (Nose Bleeds)
If you feel like your nose isn't up to snuff, schedule a visit to see one of our specialists today!
Your visit will begin by reviewing your symptoms; previous medical, surgical and allergy treaments; as well as any previous surgery or injury to the nose. The physician will then examine your nose and nasal septum by using a bright light and a nasal speculum (an instrument that gently spreads open your nostril) to inspect the inside surface of each nostril. The lining tissues of the nose (turbinates) may be temporarily shrunken by use of Afrin or Neosynephrine nasal spray to get a better look at the inside of your nose. Sometimes a fiberoptic scope will be inserted in the nose to look at the entire nasal cavity, and sinus openings directly.
If your provider is concerned that allergies may be a cause of many of your symptoms allergy testing may be ordered. At Charleston ENT we offer a full-range of allergy services including skin testing and allergy shots or drops.
If you have recurrent sinus infections, nasal obstruction, recurrent sinus headaches, decreased sense of smell, nasal polyps or nasal symptoms not responding to medical treatments your provider may order a Sinus CT scan to provide a detailed view of your nasal anatomy.
In summary, a comprehensive nasal evaluation for recurrent nasal symptoms will often require a thorough review of symptoms and previous treatments; a detailed ENT examination; possible allergy testing; and possible sinus CT scan.
Treatment & Procedures
Although treatment varies, options may be as simple as using a nasal spray or decongestant, to improve nasal congestion, reduce inflammation, or treat your allergies.
Patients who have symptoms or nasal problems that don't respond to simple treatments ( whether it is allergic or non-allergic) may need combination of medicines, advanced allergy treatments and occasionally surgical treatments. The providers at Charleston ENT and Allergy can provide comprehensive testing and treatment for most bothersome nasal symptoms.
If your nose bleeds frequently,and is not responding to humidification and medical management, cauterization of the problematic area may be recommended in the office, or occasionally in the ambulatory surgical center to decrease the frequency of the nosebleeds.
If your deviated septum is causing troublesome stuffiness, nosebleeds, recurring sinus infections or other significant problems, the doctor may recommend surgical correction (Septoplasty). Fixing a deviated septum usually helps troublesome nasal breathing, and is most often outpatient, taking 30-60 minutes. In the past, patients often had nasal packing, and external bruising. Presently at Charleston ENT, this procedure is most commonly performed without any nasal packing or bruising. There are very few restrictions or limitations immediately after the procedure.
Another common outpatient procedure is a Turbinate Reduction. Swollen inferior turbinates are often associated with allergies, and infections. Patients with swollen inferior turbinates often are stuffy most of the time. If the simple medical treatments don't help, a turbinate reduction can make a big difference for nasal breathing. This procedure is outpatient and like a septoplasty requires no packing and creates no bruising. There is not a lot of pain with this procedure and patients have very few limitations afterwards.
If your case of sinusitis is very severe and your doctor suspects the cause is bacterial, he or she may prescribe an antibiotic. While people usually start feeling better a few days after they start a regiment, it is important to follow the doctor's instructions and continue taking it until it is completely gone.
Most patients respond to medical therapy for sinusitis, and our goal is to help patients get better without surgery or a lot of medicines. However, there are many patients who have recurrent or constant problems in their sinuses that are not responding to routine medical treatments. For those patients sometimes Endoscopic Sinus Surgery may be recommended. If this is the case, the ENT surgeons at Charleston ENT will utilize the latest technology including image guided endoscopic techniques to safely and effectively treat your sinus disease. Like septoplasties and turbinate reductions, sinus surgery can be performed at an outpatient facility, without any external bruising and without removable packing. There are very few limitations after the procedure.
See how the SC Sinus Institute is committed to giving you the highest possible level of care for all your Ear, Nose, Throat and Allergy needs.
If you're ready to breathe easy again, see one of our specialists today. You don't even need a referral!