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March 8, 1999 - March 21, 1999
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Ask Nurse Esther Ether

 

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COLUMN
Published Mar. 8, 1999

 

Nurse Esther Ether

Nurse Esther Ether says allergies, as with all health problems, shouldn’t be ignored. If you have any symptoms, seek attention right away. Try the student heath center!

Part One of ALLERGIC RHINITIS

Q. Does this sound like you?

A. Constant watery, nasal discharge, itching nose, eyes and throat, sneezing, congested sinuses and ears, postnasal drip, sore throat, headaches, fatigue and irritability

These symptoms, whether recurring at specific times of the year or all-year round, should alert you to the possibility of allergic rhinitis.

The immune system process leading to allergic rhinitis, or Immunoglobulin E (Ig E) mediated allergic rhinitis, begins when genetically predisposed individuals are repeatedly exposed to potential allergens, such as dust mites, molds, pets and pollens. In San Francisco, both pollens and molds are present year-round. Indoors allergens, which are always present to some degree, include dust mites, pets, indoor mold and (yes!) cockroaches.

Your allergic threshold is your level of sensitivity. If you are extremely sensitive, just a small exposure will cause you symptoms — in other words, your allergic threshold is low. If you have a high tolerance to allergens, your allergic threshold is high. One important goal of treatment is to decrease the allergen load so that it does not exceed your threshold. For some people, that means small changes and for others, larger changes to prevent "overflow."

If you are unsure of what allergens are causing you symptoms, there are two main types of testing methods: skin testing and blood testing. These tests can be expensive and available to some students through their private medical insurance. Other students, through personal observation of cause and effect and therapeutic management, may be able to manage symptoms well without specific testing.

Next Issue

What you can do to manage your symptoms of allergic rhinitis through environmental changes and judicious use of medication.


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