Use a Virtual Visit to Find Relief from Seasonal Allergies

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If nasal congestion, watery eyes and frequent sneezing have left you miserable this spring, it’s time for relief. Springtime can be a double whammy for your upper respiratory system because it is both allergy season and the tail end of cold and flu season. A visit with your primary care physician, virtually or in their office, can help you diagnose those symptoms and get relief.

Patrick Railey, M.D., family medicine, says he sees many patients each season with allergy symptoms. “They are coming in with a runny nose, itchy eyes, sneezing, and nasal congestion,” he explains. “I always expect it when the pollen counts start going up this time of year.”

 Many people have trouble distinguishing between an illness and allergies because the symptoms closely mirror one another. “Allergy symptoms come on slowly, so the patient doesn’t know if he or she is getting sick or not. The patient may have nasal secretions and a sore throat from postnasal drip, but typically nothing beyond that.”

 In addition to allergy symptoms, patients with a common cold will often experience body aches, fever and headaches from being congested. “I make sure to ask a patient how they feel and if their symptoms are impacting their quality of life,” says Dr. Railey. “If they have a fever or body aches, or are just not getting better with over-the-counter medications, there are prescriptions we can give them to help them feel better.”

 He says it is especially important for asthma patients to control allergy and cold symptoms because infections can lead to asthma attacks. “For these people, it is even more important to control symptoms early,” he says.

 Dr. Railey added that telemedicine and virtual visits are another option for patients that want a quick diagnosis in the comfort of their home. Piedmont has been offering telemedicine in many of its physician practices for several years, but they have been used more frequently since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Virtual visits can provide additional safety for all patients, including high-risk individuals, and can be conveniently conducted through your computer, tablet or smartphone.

 “Determining whether a patient is just suffering from allergies or is coming down with a cold can easily be done through telemedicine,” said Dr. Railey. “Once diagnosed, we can discuss medications and other steps to relieve the patient’s symptoms and get them feeling better.”

 Piedmont offers virtual visits with primary care physicians, urgent care locations, and specialty practices. Most visits are conducted over video, and all you need to get started is a video-enabled computer, tablet or smartphone. Piedmont’s virtual visits are also HIPAA-compliant, so you can be confident that your information is kept safely. In addition, Piedmont now offers On-Demand Virtual Visits that allow patients to be seen same-day for minor illnesses or concerns, like seasonal allergies, through the Piedmont MyChart portal. If patients start experiencing symptoms, they can see a provider virtually with no appointment needed.

For mild cold or allergy symptoms, Dr. Railey recommends over-the-counter cold or allergy medicine or antihistamines to keep secretions runny and reduce discomfort from congestion. “If that’s not enough for people with more severe nasal allergies or bad eye symptoms, they may need prescription medications, like antihistamines, nasal steroids or eye drops,” he says.

 And don’t hesitate to see your doctor if you’re miserable – allergy and cold symptoms can impact quality of life, says Dr. Railey. “People don’t sleep well when symptoms aren’t controlled, which makes them tired and more vulnerable to certain viruses. It’s a quality of life issue.”

 If you’re suffering from allergies and need relief or wondering whether or not it is a cold, a visit with your doctor can pinpoint what steps to take next,” said Dr. Railey. “Meeting with a physician in a virtual visit will keep you safe and comfortable, and can be more convenient for those constantly on the go.”

 For more on telemedicine at Piedmont, visit piedmont.org/virtualvisits

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