Summer Allergies

It’s summertime, and the livin’ is easy. Unless you are one of the 24 million Americans in Portland and throughout the United States who suffers from allergies during the warmest months of the year. In that case, summertime is anything but easy; instead, it can be downright miserable, leading you to wish for cooler weather and a reprieve from all that pollen in the air.

What Causes Allergies?

Allergies are your immune system’s response to a perceived threat. When your body encounters germs or bacteria it deems harmful, the immune system goes on the attack, releasing antibodies – proteins designed to protect against foreign invaders. These cause the release of histamines, chemicals that are responsible for the classic allergy symptoms.

Summer Allergy Symptoms

Summer Allergies in Portland Allergies may occur throughout the year but are especially prevalent during the summer months when trees, grasses and weeds release pollen into the air. This leads to hay fever and its resultant symptoms, which include:
  • Stuffy and/or runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Itchiness in the nose and throat
  • Sore throat
  • Postnasal drip
  • Itchy, watery eyes
  • Pressure in the ears
  • Fatigue
  • Allergic shiners (bluish skin beneath the eyes)

Treating Summer Allergies

The best way to treat summer allergies is to avoid the allergens that trigger your immune system’s response. This is easier said than done in Portland, where the fertile Willamette Valley – dubbed “the grass capital of the world” – is responsible for widespread allergy symptoms in people of all ages. Short of locking yourself inside your house for three months, there are other, less drastic steps you can take to treat summer allergies. Many people turn to medications for allergy relief. Over-the-counter drugs such as brand name antihistamines, decongestants, and nasal and oral corticosteroids may be helpful. If not, your doctor can prescribe stronger medications. If medications don’t do the trick, consider immunotherapy (allergy shots). These help your body build up a tolerance to the allergens that cause you misery, leading to long-term relief. You must commit to three or more years of treatment, but in the end, you’ll probably find it worthwhile. The good news is, you have options! If you are tired of dealing with allergies and want to enjoy the summer months, which are all-too-fleeing in the Pacific Northwest, your Portland ear, nose and throat provider can help you find relief.
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How Do You Hear?

Have you ever wondered how you hear? How does the beep of the microwave leave that device, enter your ear and tell your brain that your popcorn is done? While it may seem simple, your Portland audiologist is here to tell you that it is surprisingly complicated.

What Makes Up the Ear?

How Do You Hear? There are three sections of the ears: the outer, middle and inner ear. Each section plays an important role in the hearing process.

The Outer Ear

The outer ear is also called the auricle or pinna. The part that, for lack of a better term, sticks out of your head and is visible to others, is responsible for collection the sound waves and funneling them into the ear canal. The sound waves travel along until they hit the eardrum (tympanic membrane) and create a vibration.

The Middle Ear

The vibration, caused by the sound wave hitting the eardrum, stimulates the movement of the ossicles, three tiny bones within the middle ear. They are known are the malleus (hammer), incus (anvil) and stapes (stirrup). Fun fact alert: the stapes is the smallest bone in the human body. The stapes is attached to the oval window, which connects the middle and inner ear.

The Inner Ear

When the vibration reaches the oval window, it causes the liquid within the cochlea to move. The cochlea is a fluid-filled, hair-lined structure within the inner ear. The movement of the liquid causes the hair cells to move, which creates an electrical impulse. The impulse travels down the auditory nerve to the brain. There, the signal is interpreted as sound and there you have it – the hearing process is complete.

How Does Hearing Loss Occur?

If the outer or middle ear becomes damaged, typically from trauma or disease, it is known as conductive hearing loss. Damage to the inner ear is known as sensorineural hearing loss or nerve deafness. This type of hearing loss occurs when there is damage to the hair cells within the cochlea, which prevents electrical signals from reaching the auditory nerve and brain. This type of hearing loss can be caused by:
  • Injury
  • Disease
  • Aging
  • Genetics
  • Ototoxic medications
Patients can also develop mixed hearing loss. This is when you have damage to both the inner ear and outer or middle ear. To learn more about hearing loss, contact your Portland audiologist today.

Is it Better Hearing & Speech Month Already?

May is here! It seems like only yesterday we were pulling on our boots and zipping up our parkas. Now the wildflowers are blooming and the days are staying lighter longer. If you are like us, you are probably asking yourself how it is already May. And with that, how is it Better Hearing & Speech Month already? Better Hearing & Speech Month - PDX ENT This month-long event was created to encourage people to take action if they believe there might be a problem with their hearing or speech. So the question is, how do you know if you may have hearing loss? Below are the top five symptoms of hearing loss you should be on the lookout for.

Frequently asking people to repeat themselves.

Missing bits and pieces of a conversation can be infuriating. In order to compensate for the missing parts, you will start asking people to repeat themselves. While this is frustrating for you, imagine how frustrating it is on their end. Contact your Portland audiologist today to help alleviate the burden you are placing on your friends and family.

Feeling like others mumble when they speak.

A common complaint heard by Portland audiologists is that everyone around their patient has started to mumble. While we never like to say never, the possibility that everyone became mumblers overnight is pretty small. Instead, the more likely scenario is that you are having trouble hearing them. Hearing loss makes it harder for you to hear others, especially women and children.

Having trouble following conversations with background noise.

It should come as no surprise that it is harder to carry on a conversation in a busy store than it is in a quiet room. Those with hearing loss find it even more challenging, as their brain has to work harder to distinguish speech from sounds. This can lead to both mental and physical exhaustion.

Turning the volume on the television or radio up.

Would you like it if you walked into a room and someone jumped out to scare you? Neither do your friends and family. When you watch television, in order to hear it you typically have to turn the volume way up. If you don’t turn the volume back down before turning the television off, the next person to turn it on is in for a treat. To avoid blowing our your loved one’s eardrums, contact your Portland audiologist.

Avoiding social gatherings.

Leaving your hearing loss untreated can lead to an increase in feelings of depression, anxiety and loneliness. These feelings are often escalated when those with hearing loss begin to turn down invitations to social events, as it is easier to stay home than to deal with the frustration that comes from trying to communicate with others. Don’t let Better Hearing & Speech month pass you by without taking the message to heart. If you think there is a chance you may have hearing loss, now is the time to do something about it. Contact your Portland audiologist today to get started.  
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Is Today The Day You Do Something About Your Sinus Issues?

Is it common for you to experience cold-like symptoms including:
  • Nasal congestion and discharge
  • Postnasal drip
  • Sore throat
  • Facial pressure and swelling
  • Loss of smell and taste
  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Bad breath
If so, you are not alone. Your Portland otolaryngologists estimate that nearly 37 million Americans suffer from an inflammation and swelling of their sinus tissue known as a sinus infection or sinusitis. But you do not have to simply learn to live with these symptoms. Now is the time to contact your Portland otolaryngologists and find some relief from the pain and discomfort.

What Exactly Is a Sinus Infection?

Do Something About Your Sinus Issues Understanding what a sinus infection actually is can help with your treatment. A sinus infection is caused by an infection, usually brought on by a cold or allergies. It can also be caused by:
  • Nasal polyps
  • Deviated septum
  • Trauma to the face
  • Hay fever
  • Complications from an immune system disorder
  • Tumors
How is A Sinus Infection Treated? Before a treatment plan can be put in place, your Portland otolaryngologist must first confirm what is causing your symptoms. Your doctor will review your medical history and complete a physical exam. During this exam, they will inspect your nasal passage for polyps, inflammation and a buildup of fluid. Your doctor may need to order additional testing. Typically this includes:
  • Nasal endoscopy
  • CT scans
  • MRIs
  • Allergy tests
The right treatment for your chronic sinusitis is based on the cause and severity of your infection. The most common treatments are below:
  • Saline nasal sprays and corticosteroids are useful for rinsing your nasal passages and relieving inflammation.
  • Decongestants are a good short-term solution, but extended use can actually worsen the condition.
  • Antibiotics are usually prescribed for bacterial infections.
  • Antihistamines, nasal steroid sprays, saline washes and oral steroids all provide long-term relief.
  • Immunotherapy (allergy shots) and surgery are a more permanent solution for those suffering from chronic sinusitis.
For more information on getting the help you need for your untreated chronic sinusitis, contact your Portland otolaryngologist or schedule a visit online today.
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Are You Allergic to Work?

Does going to work fill you with anxiety and cause your eyes to water and your head to throb? Turns out, some of these symptoms may not be your body begging you to give up and quit but instead may be the result of an allergy. That’s right – I’m saying you could be allergic to work. Good luck convincing your boss of this, though (especially if the weather is exceptionally nice or there’s a new “Star Wars” movie in theaters).

Symptoms of an Environmental Allergy

allergies at work Common symptoms of an allergy to your environment include:
  • Fatigue

  • Headaches

  • Runny nose

  • Sneezing

If these symptoms occur after you get settled in for a day at the office, they are most likely being caused by something at work. While we would love to tell you that you are allergic to the job itself, it would be more accurate to say you are responding to irritants in the air. If you are one of the 50 million individuals in Portland and throughout the country with allergies, your allergist recommends staying clear of a few specific professions.

Jobs to Avoid

The following types of work should be avoided if you suffer from seasonal and environmental allergies. Landscaper. Working outside puts you in direct contact with molds and tree, grass and weed pollens. These are especially prevalent when working as a landscaper. Spa workers. Those who work in this type of environment are exposed to fumes and sprays that can trigger an allergy attack. Perfumes, hairsprays, soaps and chemicals used in this type of work can also affect those who are sensitive to smells. Housekeeping. Cleaning puts you at a high risk for exposure to indoor allergens such as dust and mold. Housekeepers can also be tasked with cleaning rooms where pets have been, which can add additional allergens. Construction work. Working in building and demolition puts you in direct contact with many types of dust and irritants.

Allergens in the Office

Now, back to the problems at your office job. While it may seem obvious that working outside will put you in contact with allergens, working inside a building can be just as bad. An office building is a breeding ground for mold, dust and irritants. The toxins secreted by the mold cause allergic reactions. Symptoms of a mold allergy are headaches, feelings of nausea and asthma complications. The most common type of office mold is stachybotrys; it is a black, sticky, slimy fungus. This mold is often found around water pipes, in the walls around plumbing or near a leaking room since it requires water to grow. Dust mites are usually found in warm, humid environments such as carpeting or upholstered furniture. The most common symptoms of a dust mite allergy are:
  • Sneezing
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Red, itchy or watery eyes
  • Wheezing
Central air conditioning, which is typically found in Portland office buildings, can cause allergy symptoms. If the filters are left unchanged any dust will be recirculated back into the air. Fragrance use, strong cleaning supplies and even heavily scented beauty products can lead to headaches, irritated eyes and breathing problems. Since these irritants often come from others around you, like coworkers and the cleaning staff, they are often hard to control. In order to combat this, many offices in Portland are becoming “fragrance free” by using unscented cleaning products and asking employees to refrain from using perfumes or colognes. If you are experiencing these symptoms on a regular basis, contact your Portland allergist. They will run a series of tests to determine what you are specifically allergic to and then use this information to create an individualized treatment plan. Contact your Portland doctor today to get started.
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Tinnitus Week

February 5-11 is Tinnitus Week. For the second year, the American Tinnitus Association has joined forces with the British Tinnitus Association, Tinnitus Research Initiative and TinnitusHub to help raise global awareness of tinnitus and how it impacts millions around the world. Your hearing loss specialists at PDX ENT are proud to be part of the solution by helping treat those in the Portland area with tinnitus.    

What is tinnitus?

Tinnitus Week Tinnitus is the sensation of hearing a ringing in the ear when there is no noise actually present. It is technically a symptom of an underlying condition, rather than a disorder on its own. Hearing a ringing, buzzing, roaring, clicking or hissing at various pitches can all be signs of tinnitus. These sounds can either be heard all the time or may come and go. While most people only hear them in one ear, it is possible to have tinnitus in both ears. Additional symptoms include:
  • Fatigue
  • Sleep problems
  • Memory problems
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
 

What types of Tinnitus are there?

There are two types of tinnitus: subjective and objective.
  • Subjective

    is the most common and involves tinnitus only you can hear.
  • Objective

    tinnitus is much rarer and can be heard by your doctor during an examination.
 

What Causes Tinnitus?

There are a number of conditions that list tinnitus as a possible symptom. The most common causes include:
  • Aging
  • Noise exposure
  • Infections
  • Allergies
  • Medications
  • Diseases
  • Foreign objects in the ears
  For some, their Portland audiologist is able to determine the cause of their tinnitus. For these individuals, if their audiologist treats the initial cause, their tinnitus may go away entirely.

Treatments for Tinnitus

But for most, the exact cause will remain a mystery. For those individuals, their Portland audiologist will recommend one of the following treatment options:
  • White noise therapy

    . This popular treatment involves the use of white noise, which releases a distribution of random sound frequencies across the hearing spectrum. These sounds can help draw the brain’s attention away from the distracting background noise, allowing you to tune out the tinnitus.
  • Tinnitus Retraining Therapy

    . This newer approach combines counseling and education with sound therapy. You’ll learn about your tinnitus, different strategies for coping and how to use low-level sound generators. These generators produce soft tonal patterns that encourage the brain to shift its focus away from the sounds associated with tinnitus.
  • Hearing aids

    . Most people with tinnitus also have hearing loss, which means most already have a hearing aid. If you are one of these people, your Houston audiologist suggests simply turning up the volume. This can help mask distracting background noises.
  • Natural remedies

    . Some patients report positive results using gingko biloba, zinc or niacin, though clinical studies are inconclusive.
  • Even though tinnitus may not be curable, many report positive results through the use of one of the above treatment plans. Help us spread the word and raise global awareness of tinnitus by sharing this blog and using the hashtag #TinnitusWeek when talking about this event online. For more information on tinnitus treatments, contact your Portland audiologist today.

Can You Lose Your Sense of Smell?

What if you couldn’t stop and smell the roses? A condition known medically as anosmia is just that – an inability to perceive odors.

Anosmia can be partial or complete and, while rarely the symptom of a serious condition, can still cause a number of issues for the individual involved. Fortunately, the condition is often temporary, while in some cases – especially those involving the elderly – the loss of smell may be permanent.

What Causes a Loss of Smell?

Loss of Smell in Portland Anosmia occurs when the sinuses become swollen and inflamed. The most common causes include:
  • Colds
  • Flu
  • Allergies
  • Sinusitis
  • Non-allergic rhinitis
Nasal obstructions such as polyps, tumors and other deformities can block the flow of air through the nose and lead to a loss of smell. There are many other possible causes including Alzheimer’s disease, brain tumor, aneurysm, diabetes, cocaine use, chemical exposure, malnutrition, hormonal imbalances, medications, Parkinson’s disease, rhinoplasty, radiation therapy and old age, among others.

What Are the Symptoms?

Obviously, the telltale sign of anosmia is a loss of smell. Some also report a change in the way things smell.

If the condition persists for longer than a week or two, you should consult your Portland otolaryngologist.

Can a Loss of Smell Be Treated?

The only way to treat anosmia is to first figure out what is causing it.

  • If a cold or allergies are to blame, there is no treatment. Simply wait a few days and your sense of smell should return.


  • If your loss of smell is caused by a polyp or other growth blocking your nasal passage, you may require surgery to treat the problem.


  • For bacterial infections, antibiotics are prescribed.


  • And finally, sometimes the loss of smell is simply related to age. In these cases, the condition cannot be reversed.


If you lose your sense of smell, it is important to take some precautions to protect your safety. This includes making sure your smoke detectors are all working properly and labeling all leftovers; since your sense of smell affects your ability to taste, it is important to take care to prevent ingesting spoiled food.

To learn more about the loss of smell, contact your Portland otolaryngologist today.
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What is an Ear Infection?

Known medically as otitis media, an ear infection is an inflammation of the middle ear. It is the result of fluid becoming trapped behind the eardrum, usually because of a virus or bacteria. While anyone of any age can develop an ear infection, they are much more common in children than in older adults. In fact, three out of four children will experience an ear infection by the time they are three years old.

What Causes an Ear Infection?

The most common causes of an ear infection are bacteria and viruses, which are usually already in your body after a cold, sore throat or upper respiratory infection. Colds, flu and strep throat can also lead to an ear infection. Germs can spread to the middle ear and become trapped when the Eustachian tube (responsible for draining fluid) becomes swollen or blocked due to a cold or other illness. Kids have smaller tubes than adults; because of this and the fact that their immune systems are still developing, they are more likely to suffer from ear infections.

Common Symptoms of Ear Infections

Besides the painful earache, those with an ear infection may also experience: Ear Infection in Portland, OR

  • Discharge from the ear
  • Fever
  • Difficulty hearing
  • Irritability
  • Loss of appetite
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

 

How Are Ear Infections Treated?

Ear infections are usually treated with antibiotics, over-the-counter pain relievers and eardrops. For those who do not respond well to medications, surgically implanted ear tubes may be needed. They help provide ventilation and prevent fluid from accumulating in the middle ear. They remain in the ear between six months and two years; usually they will fall out of the ear on their own. If they don’t, a simple surgery is needed to remove them. To learn more about preventing or treating ear infections, contact your local Portland doctor.  
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EpiPens May Last Past Their Expiration Date

How can EpiPens continue to be effective?

A new study from the University of California, San Diego found that expired auto-injectors can still be used in emergency situations. If you are one of the many people in Portland who suffers from a severe allergy, you know how frustrating it is to constantly throw away unused EpiPen, only to have to shell out the few hundred bucks to buy a new one. But it’s just something you have to do, as an auto-injector is the only thing that can save your life if you are having a severe allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis. EpiPens in Portland, Oregon

What Causes an Allergic Reaction?


According to your Portland ENT, an allergy is an exaggerated response from your immune system to a normally harmless substance. Your immune system is your body’s first line of defense against germs and bacteria; it plays a crucial role in maintaining your health and preventing infections. Your immune system is comprised of cells, proteins, tissues and organs. When a threat is detected, the immune system responds by attacking the substances that are invading the body. Proteins designed to protect against foreign invaders, known as antibodies, are produced during this attack. These antibodies trigger the release of a chemical called histamines, which is responsible for these telltale symptoms of an allergic reaction:
  • Swelling
  • Inflammation
  • Itching
  • Mucus Production
The epinephrine, also known as adrenaline, is a hormone that helps relax muscles. Contained in an auto-injector, the epinephrine can open airways and reduce swelling if used during an allergic reaction.

New Allergy Research Was Needed


The price of these life-saving auto-injectors has gone up 400 percent over the last 10 years. Because of this increase, researchers began looking into how long after the printed expiration date the injectors actually lasted. The study conducted by Dr. Lee Cantrell found that EpiPens Jrs. contained at least 90 percent of epinephrine 29 months after their expiration date and EpiPens contained 84 percent 50 months after. That’s more than four years past the printed expiration date. The results of this study helped to validate a practice many patients have already been doing – saving their expired EpiPens. While the study in no way suggests that people should stop purchasing new auto-injectors when their old ones expire, it does advocate for holding onto the older injectors. They can be used in an emergency situation when a current injector is not available. Simply put – in an emergency situation, an expired auto-injector is better than nothing at all. For more information on the use of auto-injectors, contact your Portland ENT.  
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Medication-Free Allergy Treatment?

If you are like most Portlanders, you have been suffering from allergies most of your life. This means you have also been taking over-the-counter as well as prescription medications to control your symptoms. What if I could tell you that there is a way to treat your symptoms without any medication? It is called avoidance

Allergen Avoidance

Avoidance is just what is sounds like: it involves making sure you no longer come into contact with the allergens that cause your symptoms. For those of you suffering from hay fever (allergies to pollen, pet dander and mold), the below tips can help you reduce or eliminate allergens from your home.

Protect Your Home from Allergens

Removing Allergens in Portland
  • Encase your mattress and pillows in dust mite-proof cases. Wash all your bedding in hot water at least once a week.
  • Remove carpeting from your home and replace with easy to clean material such as hardwood or linoleum. If the wall-to-wall carpeting cannot be removed, vacuum and shampoo the carpet regularly.
  • Use only washable window coverings, such as cotton or synthetic curtains.
  • During pollen season, keep your windows closed.
  • Get rid of clutter; this means removing any knickknacks that sit on tables collecting dust.
  • Invest in a HEPA air filtration system to remove small allergen particles from the air.
  • Keep potted plants out of the house—either plant them outside or give them away.
  • Avoid using a wood-burning fireplace or stove; the smoke will worsen respiratory allergies.
  • Wash the sink regularly and don’t let dishes pile up; this can create a breeding ground for mold.
  • Wash or replace moldy shower curtains and bathmats.
  • Keep your house at 68 F to 72 F. Dust mites and mold breed best in hot, humid conditions.
  • Don’t allow smoking inside your home
  • Find a new home for your pet. If you can’t do that, make sure to bathe them once a week and keep them out of your bedroom and off the furniture. 
Simpler than you thought, right? For more tips and tricks to live a better life free from allergies, contact your Portland physician today.
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