Allergies

What’s the difference between celiac disease and a gluten sensitivity?

DEAR DOCTOR K: Many people I know are going gluten-free. When I ask them why, I hear about gluten sensitivity and celiac disease. What do these terms mean?

DEAR READER: Gluten sensitivity and celiac disease are two separate conditions with one thing in common: gluten. Gluten is a protein found in anything made with grains such as wheat, rye or barley. Gluten is what makes breads chewy. Celiac disease is a disorder in which the body can't tolerate gluten.

My eyes are affected the most by allergies, what can I do for relief?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I have allergies, and my eyes are affected the most. They're puffy, red and itchy. What can I do?

DEAR READER: Pollens, animal dander, dust mites and mold: The same allergens that cause sneezing and an itchy nose and throat can trigger allergy symptoms that affect your eyes, too. If your eyes are red and itchy, you may also have tearing, mucous discharge and swelling of your conjunctiva (the inside of your eyelid). This constellation of symptoms is known as allergic conjunctivitis. It can be uncomfortable, but it is not a threat to vision.

What will help my sinus headaches?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I'm a woman in my 30s who has suffered from sinus headaches for years. Allergy medications haven't helped. What else can I try?

DEAR READER: Seasonal allergies can cause sinus congestion, sneezing and a runny nose. But when you experience pain and pressure in your head, it may be time to consider other causes. That's because sinus problems do not usually cause headaches. At least, they don't cause what most people refer to when they use the term "headache." Most people with sinus congestion refer to "head congestion," not headache.

My child suffers from allergies every spring and fall — What can I do?

DEAR DOCTOR K: My 7-year-old daughter suffers from allergies every spring and fall. What can I do?

DEAR READER: Spring and fall are my favorite seasons, as is true for many people. But for those who suffer from seasonal allergies, spring and fall can be very unpleasant. Weeks of sniffling, sneezing, head congestion, red eyes and scratchy throats make it hard to appreciate the beauty and mild weather.

Have I developed food allergies as an adult?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I've always had seasonal allergies. But over the past few years, I've noticed that my lips swell and my mouth gets irritated when I eat certain fruits and vegetables. Have I developed new food allergies as an adult?

DEAR READER: I suspect you've developed a type of adult-onset food allergy known as oral allergy syndrome (OAS). People with OAS suffer from hay fever and experience an itchy mouth, scratchy throat, or swelling of the lips, mouth, tongue and throat after eating certain raw fruits, vegetables or some tree nuts.

Why does my doctor want me to do a food challenge when my blood test showed negative for a shellfish allergy?

DEAR DOCTOR K: Last month I broke out in hives after eating oysters. I had a blood test, which came back negative for a shellfish allergy. Why does my doctor still want me to do a food challenge?

DEAR READER: Allergic reactions occur when your body's immune system overreacts against a harmless substance -- in your case, possibly, shellfish. Food allergies can cause a variety of symptoms that range from mild to life-threatening.

What medications will make allergy season more bearable?

DEAR DOCTOR K: This year I'm suffering from seasonal allergies for the first time. What medications will make allergy season more bearable?

DEAR READER: Sneezing; itchy, runny, stuffy nose; red, itchy, watery eyes; sore throat. Hay fever can cause great misery. If misery loves company, you'll be pleased to know that I and millions of other people suffer from hay fever. Luckily, many medications can help treat its symptoms.

What can I do for terrible sinus headaches?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I get terrible sinus headaches during allergy season. Antihistamines help, but not completely. What else can I try?

DEAR READER: I see many patients during allergy season complaining of sinus headache pain. It occurs most often in the center of the face, the bridge of the nose and the cheeks. And it's sometimes accompanied by nasal congestion and clear or opaque nasal discharge.

Is dust dangerous?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I keep a tidy house, but no matter how much I clean, there's more dust than I'd like. Is dust dangerous to my family's health?

DEAR READER: Yes, depending on its contents, dust can be harmful to your health. What is dust? It's a little like sausage: You don't want to know what's in it. But I'll tell you anyway.