Question: I know I have seasonal allergies. Should I see a doctor or can I leave it untreated?
Answer: An important question is, indeed, when to seek medical attention. For the person who has very minor episodic symptoms -- itchy, runny, sneezy -- they might go to the grocery store and buy an over-the-counter antihistamine or decongestant; it might serve their purpose quite well, especially if they only have symptoms a couple of days out of the month, such as, perhaps, when cutting the grass or raking the leaves.
But what really brings the patient to the physician is more persistent symptoms -- that person who is now experiencing symptoms several days out of the week, you know, that's the real key issue. And recognizing, of course, the spring pollen season is not just one week, it typically can manifest over a period of 6-18 or 20 weeks, depending on what part of the country you're in.
Likewise, in the fall when ragweed is in the air, it's typically a 6-10-week period of time when you're bothered. So that's the real issue, and to me the critical question is a patient that has more persistent problems that occur seasonally or that occur throughout the year, punctuated by seasonal exacerbations, of course, that is the person that is not typically finding really good results from just using over-the-counter medicines that just simply treat symptoms. Let's face it, the horse is out of the barn; you're chasing symptoms. That's the person that, then, really deserves the further workup to determine whether there's an allergic basis that is driving that problem.
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