NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Allergists across North Texas agree that this is one of the worst allergy seasons they’ve seen in years. If you’re like most allergy sufferers, you’ve tried every over-the-counter allergy medication you can get your hands on, but what if nothing works? If you fall into that category, it may be that you don’t have seasonal allergies at all.
Surrounded by pumpkins, hay, trees and flowers, you’d think Cheri Meringolo was in fall harvest paradise at the annual Dallas Arboretum Autumn event.
But as she sniffles and sneezes, it’s clear something else is going on. “Right now my nose is getting stuffy,” she said. “My throat is getting scratchy, my eyes will water.”
And although Cheri took a dose of over-the-counter allergy medication that very morning, it just wasn’t doing the trick. “It doesn’t seem to be doing much good today, but normally it keeps it under control,” she explained.
As children run and jump from one hay bale to the next, one can visibly see the dust flying. Nearby, a bee spreads pollen from flower to flower, and a lawnmower’s telltale sound can be heard in the distance. Add it all together, and, for some, it’s a seasonal allergy nightmare.
For Dallas teacher Marsha Smith, the nightmare has lasted a lifetime. With symptoms beginning when she was a child, it has meant more than 40 years of suffering.
“Most of my life… most of my life. I wish I had stock in tissue companies,” Marsha said laughing. With her, no amount of over-the-counter medications ever seemed to do the trick. “Really all they do is make me go to sleep.”
It wasn’t until Marsha paid a visit to Dallas allergist Dr. Gary Gross that she finally learned the truth about her sneezing and sniffling.
Diagnosing the problem is a big problem. “They’re [doctors] really not treating the right disease, ” Dr. Gross explained. “They’re trying to treat allergies and they [patients] don’t have allergies.”
What Marsha and close to 17 million other Americans do have is non-allergic rhinitis.
“Generally these people have a few different complaints than patients who have allergic rhinitis…for instance they may be more sensitive to strong odors, perfume; they may be more sensitive to weather changes, to air pollution,” said Dr. Gross.
According to Dr. Gross, the only way to know what you’re suffering from, for sure, is to see an allergist and be tested. “If you don’t have allergies, we’re going to go down a different pathway and try to treat the symptoms in a different way or try and change your environment so you don’t have the symptoms at all.”
Dr. Gross says the correct medication, using saline nasal sprays several times per day, and limiting exposure to irritants is key.
Today, as Marsha is able to take a short walk outside the school where she works. She finally has a diagnosis that has not only brought her relief, but also a future with far fewer sick days.
“Really this year is the best I’ve had,” she said. “It feels pretty good to be able to get up and come to work in the morning.”
Dr. Gross warns that with cooler temperatures more heat is being pumped into homes. That’s bad news since, the dry air and dust may bring about more symptoms for non-allergic rhinitis sufferers. He suggests trying over-the-counter saline nasal spray as a first step.