Got a mysterious ache or pain? It could be due to your hay fever. (Photo: Getty Images)
The pulsing pain woke me up in the middle of the night. The nerve pain felt like someone was stabbing every single one of my teeth with a knife, repeatedly. I popped a couple of ibuprofen and the pain eventually went away.
That is, until I woke up and felt the pain again. I knew something was up and the pain didn’t have anything to do with my teeth, thanks to my near-obsessive oral hygiene habits. The pain was eventually so unbearable that I questioned both my dentist and doctor about the cause. Their explanation? Allergies, or more specifically inflammation of my sinuses as a result of my intense yearly battle with seasonal allergies.
The influx – or “explosion” – of pollen this spring is making us allergy sufferers miserable and not just because of the sniffles. It turns out tooth pain due to allergy inflammation is not that uncommon, according to William Calhoun, M.D., a seasonal allergy expert from the University of Texas Medical Branch.
“Seasonal allergies can congest the nose to the point that the sinuses become infected,” he tells Yahoo Health. “The roots of your teeth in your upper jaw are very close to the sinuses – it’s a very thin bone that separates the two. When the inflammation irritates the nerve it can cause sometimes disabling tooth pain.”
And while yes, most of the time our allergic reactions to tree and grass pollen happen in the form of plugged-up noses, it’s not uncommon for the effect to show in other – sometimes very serious – ways.
That scratchy throat you’re feeling now that the trees and flowers are starting to bloom? Yep, allergies.
Pollen can affect the throat during allergy season when you eat certain fruits that are exposed to pollen, says Jill Poole, M.D., Associate Professor, Internal Medicine Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care, Sleep & Allergy at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. “It happens especially with apples. The pollen sticks to the skin of the fruit and irritates the throat once you eat it.”
Pollen seems to be an equal opportunity offender: Wherever it hits it ends up causing irritation and inflammation. One of the easier places for it to stick is the eyes because, well, they’re open and accessible a lot of the time. In turn, it causes unrelenting inflammation and itchiness. Dr. Calhoun cautions not to rub or scratch the eye too much as you could inadvertently scratch your corneas which, at the very least, hurts your eyes and could even leave you blind.
And those eye drops you’re putting in every few minutes? “Drops do nothing to help alleviate seasonal allergies,” he says.
The most life-threatening way allergies affect us is by inducing asthma.
“We see nearly 5,000 deaths annually in the United States from allergy-induced asthma,” Dr. Calhoun tells Yahoo Health.
Many allergy-induced asthma sufferers only have asthma symptoms during the major allergy seasons – spring and fall – so it’s not necessary to take medicine all year-round. The best way to deal with it? Prevention, rather than after it already hits.
“When allergy season coming up, we want those who experience this type of asthma to see their allergists so to the office so they can start taking anti-inflammatory medications before the season hits,” he says.
The Good News When It Comes to Seasonal Allergies
So, you may be suffering from a draining bout with allergies, but there is good news: Most of the medications you need to treat 80 percent of seasonal allergies are now available over the counter, according to Dr. Poole.
“This is the first year that many topical nasal steroids like Flonase have been available over the counter,” she says. This means big savings: No doctor’s visits and no expensive prescription co-pays.
You don’t necessarily need to start with the nasal sprays right away, according to Dr. Calhoun. “Your best bet is to being treating with anti-histamines like Claritin and Zyrtec. Then, move on to topical nasal steroids.
Still not getting any relief? Make an appointment with your allergist. She has even stronger medications and treatments in her arsenal to bring you relief – at least until another allergy season starts again in a few months.