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Vanderbilt allergist offers tips to deal with changeable winter weather

Jan. 22, 2014, 8:43 AM

The beginning of this week saw spring like temperatures, and by the middle of the week we were shivering through another Arctic blast.

As this winter continues to take many parts of the country on a temperature roller coaster ride, many people find themselves using pain relievers or other remedies to deal with runny noses and other symptoms associated with sinus and allergy problems.

John Fahrenholz, M.D., medical director of the Vanderbilt Asthma, Sinus and Allergy Program, says that such changeable temperatures can be a real challenge for people who have allergies—and even for people who don’t.

“People who know they have year-round allergies should make sure to take their allergy medications daily during such times,” he said.

But even those of us who don’t suffer from allergies can develop a runny nose when the temperature and humidity change rapidly. A congested, runny or  itchy nose–what doctors call vasomotor rhinitis–can occur in the midst of rapidly changing weather.

Here are a few guidelines from Fahrenholz to help you—and your nose—through crazy weather changes:

  • If temperature changes bring on a congested, runny or itchy nose, try using an over-the-counter saltwater nose spray or nasal sinus rinse. These can also be helpful in dealing with cold, dry air in winter.
  •  People with a known tendency toward ongoing nasal symptoms during the winter months should make sure to take their regular allergy or rhinitis medications. Colder air is dry and can cause irritation to the nasal tissues leading to increased nasal allergy symptoms.
  •  Sometimes nasal symptoms from weather changes are due to a treatable condition called vasomotor rhinitis.
  •  If symptoms persist in the winter even when the temperatures level out, you may have year-round allergies to dust mites, molds or pets.
  • If you experience significantly bothersome nasal symptoms despite using over-the-counter measures, you should make an appointment to consult with a health care professional to see if you might benefit from use of allergy medications or vasomotor rhinitis treatment during the winter months.

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