Laryngopharyngeal Reflux Explained

Laryngopharyngeal Reflux Explained

A few of the things we specialize in here at Plymouth Ear, Nose, and Throat are reflux, voice, and swallowing disorders. Most people are have heard of, or are familiar with, gastroesophageal reflux, or GER. GER occurs when the stomach contents come back up into the esophagus and cause heartburn. In fact, more than 60 million American adults suffer from heartburn at least once a month. The more long-lasting and and serious form is referred to as GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease.

Laryngopharyngeal reflux is similar to gastroesophageal reflux disease but those suffering from LPR often do not experience heartburn. Therefore, LPR is often referred to as silent reflux.

 

LPR Explained

The esophagus is the muscular tube that connects the throat with the stomach. At either end of the esophagus are muscles called sphincters that keep the contents of the stomach in the stomach. When those sphincters don’t function correctly, the acid in the stomach can back up into the throat, the voice box, and even into the back of your nasal passages.

 

Symptoms of LPR

Children and adults of all ages can suffer from laryngopharyngeal reflux. Though, the often absent symptom of heartburn can make it difficult to diagnose. Symptoms include:

chronic cough

feeling as though there is a lump in the throat

difficulty swallowing

sore throat

constant feeling of having to clear the throat

mild hoarseness

burning sensation in the back of the throat

difficulty breathing

LPR that goes undiagnosed and treated can cause ulcers, recurrent ear infections, and buildup of middle ear fluid.

 

Diagnosing of LPR

If you, or somebody you know, is suffering from these symptoms we suggest making an appointment with your doctor. An irritated or swollen throat may be the only clue that your doctor needs. If further confirmation is needed, a swallow study or a closer look at the stomach and esophagus may be suggested.

For more information or to schedule an appointment, call Plymouth Ear, Nose and Throat at 508-746-8977!

 

Lyme Disease Awareness

Lyme disease and deer ticks

As the warmer weather arrives, so does the prevalence of ticks. Ticks are most active from March to mid-May and again from mid-August to November. Ticks are typically found near wooded or grassy areas and may be transferred to humans when walking trough leaf litter or shrubs. They are often also carried into homes by domesticated pets.

In the Northeastern United States, deer ticks are carriers of the Lyme disease bacteria and can pass the disease onto adults or children by biting. The good news, though, is that it takes a day or two after a tick attaches to the skin before Lyme disease will spread. Therefore, it is super important to do regular skin check on anybody in your household during the aforementioned months, especially if you spend a lot of time outdoors or have animals that go outside.

Symptoms of Lyme Disease:  

Generally, the first indicator of Lyme disease is a round, read rash that spreads from the tick bite site. The rash can get very large. Those suffering from Lyme disease may also experience flu like symptoms, fatigue, headaches, fever, sore muscles and joints, and poor memory.

Symptoms can appear anytime from three days to up to a month after being bitten. Often, people will not even be aware that they had been bitten in the first place.

More Serious Effects:

We here at Plymouth Ear, Nose and Throat take Lyme disease very seriously because we are aware of the more serious side effects that can occur when left untreated. Lyme disease can also cause hearing loss, facial paralysis, and tongue paralysis. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is imperative that you visit your doctor to confirm that you have Lyme disease and to discuss an appropriate plan of action. Please call us if you have concerns or would like to make an appointment; 508-746-8977.

How to Prevent Lyme Disease:

We suggest that you remain diligent with your tick checks throughout the year, but especially during the warmer months! Remove ticks from the body immediately (don’t forget to check the scalp and under long hair) and either submerge them in alcohol or flush them down a drain or the toilet. If you will be spending time in wooded areas, hiking or camping for example, try to wear clothes that cover your legs and arms. You may also choose to wear insect repellent or have your yard treated with a pesticide. Taking these precautions should help you to avoid tick bites and contracting Lyme disease.

What is Hyperacusis?

noise sensitivity, Hyperacusis

Imagine having a hypersensitivity or intolerance to everyday sounds like that of running water, a crying baby, a doorbell, or a television turned on at an appropriate volume. Those suffering from hyperacusis experience the above scenario on a daily basis and often also complain of pain or discomfort in the ears. Hyperacusis is a reduction of normal tolerance for everyday sound and can greatly impact one’s quality of life.

There are several theories as to why one might develop hyperacusis. The first is that the efferent portion, or fibers that regulate sounds, of the auditory nerve has been compromised. The second idea is that the central processing system is affecting how the brain perceives sound. Some believe that hyperacusis might be a result of a combination of the two aforementioned theories.

Causes of Hyperacusis

Hyperacusis can come on over a period of time or strike suddenly and there are many conditions and causes associated with it. These include, but are not limited to: job related noise exposure, Lyme disease, ear damage, migraines, head injury, chronic ear infections, and TMJ Syndrome.

Connection to Tinnitus  

Tinnitus is a condition in which a person hears ringing, buzzing, hissing, or whistling in the ears and is typically a symptom of an underlying condition. It is believed that as many as sixty-three percent of tinnitus sufferers also experience symptoms of hyperacusis. Those with either one of or both of these may find it difficult to go about their daily routines and often suffer from depression, social isolation, and phonophobia.

If you are experiencing symptoms of hyperacusis or tinnitus, then a visit with an otolaryngologist may be warranted. Please call Plymouth ENT at 508-746-8977 to learn more about how we can help you!

 

Free Oral, Head and Neck Cancer Screenings Scheduled at Plymouth ENT

Media Contact:

Kristine Resendes

Social Drive/Plymouth ENT

kresendes@socialdrive.us

 

Free Oral, Head and Neck Cancer Screenings Scheduled at Plymouth ENT

April 3-7

(Plymouth, ma, March 22, 2017) – In 2017, it is estimated that there will be more than 120,000 new cases of oral, head and neck cancer diagnosed, and unfortunately, many individuals will not be aware of their cancer until it has reached an advanced stage. Oral, head and neck cancers now ranked in the top five cancers worldwide.

The Head and Neck Cancer Alliance (HNCA), along with more than 400 national and international screening sites, is urging individuals to get screened for oral, head and neck cancers during the 19th annual Oral, Head & Neck Cancer Awareness Week® (OHANCAW®), being held April 3-7. Plymouth ENT will offer free oral, head and neck cancer screenings during OHANCAW®, which is sponsored by the HNCA. 

  • Free cancer screenings will be held at Plymouth ENT at 30 Aldrin Road, Plymouth, MA from 8AM to 5PM from Monday, April 3- Friday, April 7.
  • For more information and to schedule your screening, please call Plymouth at (508) 746-8977.

“Plymouth ENT urges our community members to participate in our free head and neck screening by scheduling a screening today.  Individuals will receive a thorough exam and learn more of the symptoms of head and neck cancers, which include: a lump or a sore that does not heal, a sore throat that does not go away, difficulty in swallowing, and a change or hoarseness in the voice. These symptoms may also be caused by other, less serious conditions. However, it’s important to get screened right away,” said Plymouth ENT staff. “For our community members who are tobacco users or who have the Human Papillomavirus (HPV), we strongly urge each individual to get screened as both are high risk factors for oral, head and neck cancers.”

About Oral, Head and Neck Cancers

Oral, Head and Neck Cancers are common forms of cancers affecting any part of the oral cavity, pharynx, throat, thyroid and larynx (voice box). Regular check-ups can detect the early stages of head and neck cancers or conditions that may lead to it. For those cancers caught at a later stage, treatment is available and may require various combinations of surgery, radiation and/or chemotherapy.  More information regarding the signs, symptoms and risk factors associated with oral, head and neck cancer can be found at www.headandneck.org.

OHANCA® and Oral, Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Week® (OHANCAW®)

In 2015, the Head and Neck Cancer Alliance expanded their Oral, Head and Neck Cancer Awareness® (OHANCA®) program to be on-going year-long campaign to educate the public about oral, head and neck cancers. As part of this program. Oral, Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Week®, is the pinnacle week dedicated to promoting education, prevention, screening and early detection of mouth and throat cancers. OHANCAW® is highlighted by free screenings and awareness events held at participating medical centers across the country.  The 19th annual Oral, Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Week will be held April 2-9, 2017. For more information, please visit www.headandneck.org.

About the Head and Neck Cancer Alliance

The Head and Neck Cancer Alliance (HNCA), is the premiere non-profit organization dedicated to saving lives and improving the patient’s quality of life via an organized and strategic alliance of all stakeholders. The united and collaborative approach focuses on prevention; early detections; advocacy, patient and clinician resources; advocacy and research. For more information on the organization or to get involved, please visit www.headandneck.

Adult Onset Allergies

Spring is on the horizon which means warmer weather, longer days, and less shoveling!    With spring comes allergens and, even if you’ve never fallen victim before, it is possible to develop allergies as an adult. If you find yourself suddenly dealing with a runny nose, scratchy throat, and a never-ending feeling of fatigue, don’t count out spring allergies.

Adult onset allergies, like hay fever, generally appear in people in their twenties and thirties but they can come on at any age.

Allergic Reactions

Allergies develop when your body suddenly begins to identify a typically harmless substance as dangerous. In response, your immune system will overreact and begin to fight the substance. This leads to the release of chemicals such as histamine that can cause reactions such as itchy eyes or a runny nose.

Adult Onset Allergies  

There are several theories as to why one might suddenly develop an allergy later in life:

The hygiene hypothesis suggests that the less you’ve been exposed to a specific allergen, the more likely you are to develop an allergy to it.

Exposure to an allergen during a time when your immune system is weakened

Moving to an area with allergens that weren’t prevalent where you previously lived

Having a tendency toward an allergy, such as pet dander, that was unknown until being regularly exposed to it

Diagnosis

Don’t automatically disregard your symptoms as the common cold just because you’ve never had allergies before! Allergy symptoms will persist whereas the cold will generally go away after several days. If you are concerned that you’ve developed an allergy that cannot be treated with an over the counter antihistamine, then consider seeing a doctor.

If you’re experiencing any allergy symptom, feel free to visit our website for more information. Or, please give us a call for more information at 508-746-8977.

What You Should Know About Sleep Apnea

There is no denying that getting a good night’s sleep is beneficial to our health and well being. Those experiencing unrestful nights due to sleep apnea are at a higher risk for conditions such as depression, high blood pressure, and diabetes. In addition, those that share a bed with a sleep apnea sufferer generally experience wakeful and restless nights.

Sleep apnea explained

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder characterized by pauses in breathing or shallow breaths while sleeping. There are three types of sleep apnea: obstructive sleep apnea, central sleep apnea, and mixed sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common and is caused by a partial or complete blockage in your upper airway while central sleep apnea occurs when the brain fails to signal to your body to breathe. Mixed sleep apnea is a combination of both obstructive and central sleep apnea.

Symptoms

Sleep apnea symptoms include:

-  Loud and disruptive snoring

-  Pauses in breathing while sleeping often accompanied by gasping. Many times the sufferer is unaware that this is even happening.

-  Daytime fatigue caused by nighttime sleep interruptions

-  The loss of oxygen that occurs from disrupted breathing may cause headaches

-  Depression or irritability

A consultation with a sleep specialist might be warranted if you or your partner are experiencing any of the aforementioned symptoms. Your doctor may suggest performing a polysomnogram, or PSG. A PSG is a common sleep study during which brain activity, eye movements, heart rate, and blood pressure will be monitored and recorded. From there, an appropriate method of treatment or plan of action can be put in place.  

For more sleep apnea information or to schedule an appointment, call Plymouth Ears, Nose and Throat at 508-746-8977!

Beware of Winter Allergies

People generally associate seasonal allergies to the onset of the warmer months and high pollen counts. But, for those that suffer from indoor allergies, the winter months, when more time is spent indoors and the windows are closed, can be just as bad.

Is it Allergies or the Common Cold?

Winter allergies are often mistaken for the common cold. However, one major difference between allergies and the cold is that a cold will usually clear up within three to five days whereas allergy symptoms will persist. Furthermore, a cold will produce nasal secretions that are discolored and may be accompanied by chills and aches. Winter allergies will produce clear, water nasal secretions and may cause an itchy throat and eyes.

What are the Causes of Winter Allergies?

Mold and mildew may grow more in the winter months in areas of the home, like bathrooms, where there is are a higher level of humidity. Also, during the early winter months, leaves and yard waste on the ground breed mildew which can then be tracked into the house. Mold may also be carried indoors on damp wood used for fires and wood stoves.

Allergies to pet dander can intensify in the winter months when pets are indoors more and your exposure to the dander increases.

Dust mites are a common cause of allergies and might be exacerbated when spending a lot of time indoors.

How Can I Manage Winter Allergies?

There are several things you can do to keep winter allergies at bay:

-  Vacuum, mop, and dust regularly

-  Wash bedding on a weekly basis in water of at least one hundred and thirty degrees

-  Consider buying bedding that is hypoallergenic

-  Use a dehumidifier to reduce humidity in the home

-  Drink more water to avoid dehydration and try a saline solution to relieve nasal congestions

-  Talk with your doctor about the best medicines and/or treatments to use

Plymouth Ear, Nose and Throat is available to answer your questions. Give us a call at 508-746-8977 to schedule an appointment!

Learn More About Tinnitus and the Plymouth ENT Audiology Team

What is Tinnitus? 

Did you know that over fifty million Americans experience some form of tinnitus? A tinnitus sufferer would typically complain of hearing ringing, buzzing, hissing, or whistling in their ears. Tinnitus is a symptom of an underlying condition such as noise induced hearing loss, age related hearing loss, ear infections, ear injury, or a circulatory system disorder. Most people generally adjust to chronic tinnitus over time but the condition can be much more bothersome to others. Those that aren’t able to adjust may experience side effects such as insomnia, depression, anxiety, and irritability.

Risk Factors

There are various factors that may increase one’s risk of developing tinnitus. Exposure to loud noises can lead to noise induced hearing loss and result in tinnitus. Those who smoke are at a higher risk for developing tinnitus. In addition, men experience tinnitus more than women as do those that are older in age.

Management

Tinnitus cannot be cured but there are ways in which it can be managed. Treating any underlying health conditions that might cause tinnitus would be the initial step. Also, addressing and treating the previously mentioned side effects that one might be suffering from could help to improve the quality of life for that person. Sound Therapies, including using white noise machines, hearing aids, and masking devices, may help to suppress the sounds that one is hearing in his or her ears. Some people have also had success with acupuncture, hypnosis, and taking supplements like zinc and vitamin B.

Meet the Audiology Team at Plymouth Ear, Nose, and Throat

Plymouth Ear, Nose and Throat is pleased to introduce you to our amazing Audiology team members who can help you with all of your hearing concerns including tinnitus management!

Eunyoung Won has been with Plymouth ENT since 2013 and brings with her seventeen years of clinical experience and focuses her interests on all aspects of audiological evaluation, including tinnitus.

Tiffany Bossie joined our team in 2016. Tiffany enjoys staying up to date in both clinical and technological research and her clinical interests are centered around amplification fitting and management as well as aural rehabilitation strategies.

Jennifer Ishmael also joined Plymouth ENT in 2016. Jennifer prides herself in providing quality care for her patients that is based on the latest research and applies that research to her clinical interests, including vestibular evaluations and management and aural rehabilitation.

Click here to read more about our team members and here to schedule your appointment today! 

Plymouth ENT to Add Food Testing to Allergy Program

Plymouth Ear, Nose and Throat is excited to announce that, in addition to diagnosing and treating seasonal and perennial allergies, we will be adding food testing to our allergy program! Our doctors and nurses are looking forward to expanding our allergy program and welcoming new patients that might be suffering from food allergies. Let’s chat a bit more about the specifics of food allergies, their symptoms and how we can help to diagnose and manage them.

 

Food Allergy Symptoms

Nearly fifteen million Americans have some kind of food allergy. Food allergies affect various areas and systems in the body including the skin, the cardiovascular system, the gastrointestinal tract and the respiratory tract. Symptoms range from mild to severe and can appear within minutes to several hours after ingesting the food to which you are allergic. Food allergy symptoms include:

·      Vomiting

·      Stomach cramps

·      Diarrhea

·      Hives

·      Wheezing

·      Persistent coughing

·      Trouble swallowing

·      Swelling of the tongue or lips

·      Weak pulse

·      Dizziness or fainting

·      Anaphylaxis

 

Diagnosing a Food Allergy

There are several ways to diagnosis a food allergy and Plymouth ENT will be offering the skin prick test. The skin prick test is attractive because it is quick and painless and can be done right in our office. To do a skin prick test, a solution containing the allergen is placed directly on the skin. The doctor will then prick that same area of skin in order to allow the solution to penetrate. Generally, an allergy is confirmed by a raised, red patch accompanied by itching.

 

Treatment and Management of Food Allergies

Depending on the severity of the allergy, the following treatments and management techniques might be considered:

-  Antihistamines

-  Oral or topical steroids

-  Epinephrine

-  Avoiding the allergen completely

-  Wearing emergency medial identification

-  Keeping your medication with you at all times

-  Seeing a doctor after a reaction

 

The Plymouth ENT Food Testing Program

The Plymouth ENT food testing program will be launching mid October 2016! We are offering skin prick testing for patients seventeen years old and up and will be testing for allergies to the following foods: lobster, clams, shrimp, scallops, carrots, milk, egg whites, soybeans, sesame, tomatoes, wheat, barley, rye, hazelnuts, peanuts, walnuts, apples, strawberries, bananas and watermelon.

 

To make your food testing appointment, call Plymouth Ear, Nose and Throat at 508-746-8977!

 

Ragweed Season and How to Manage your Allergy

little boy playing in fall leaves

The cooler weather is upon us, the leaves are changing color, and pumpkins are adorning our front steps. Fall is a time of year that many people look forward to after a hot, sticky summer. However, if you’re one of the estimated 26 percent of Americans who suffer from allergies to ragweed, you may not be so psyched about Autumn knocking on your door.

What is Ragweed?

Ragweed is a soft-stemmed weed, a member of the daisy family in fact, that grows all over the United States. There are over 17 species of ragweed and its growth peaks in mid-September, ending with the first frost. Ragweed plants release millions of grains of pollen that are incredibly light and float easily and quickly, making it nearly impossible to avoid.

Do You Have an Allergy to Ragweed?

A ragweed allergy presents similarly to other seasonal allergies. The most common symptoms are sneezing, runny nose, congestion, headaches, itchy throat and irritated eyes. Don’t disregard these symptoms even if you’ve never suffered from seasonal allergies before. If you’re experiencing them at the right time of year, it is quite possible that you may have developed an allergy to ragweed.

How Can You Manage an Allergy to Ragweed?

There are several ways that you can manage an allergy to ragweed:

-  Fall pollen counts are generally highest in the morning so try to limit the amount of time spent outside during this time of day

-  Keep you house and car windows closed in order to keep pollen out

-  Change your clothes after being outside and wash your hands after petting any animals

-  Dust and vacuum regularly

What Can You Do to Treat an Allergy to Ragweed?

For milder cases, an over the counter eye drop, nasal spray or oral medication containing an antihistamine might do the trick. For more severe cases, you may want to consider seeing an allergist and discussing prescription medication or allergy shots.

As always, Plymouth Ear, Nose and Throat is always available to answer any questions and guide you in the right direction. Give us a call at 508-746-8977 to schedule an appointment

Dr. Patel Appointed as President of Medical Staff

We, here at Plymouth Ear, Nose and Throat, are thrilled to congratulate our very own Dr. Anit Patel on his recent appointment as President of Medical Staff at Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital-Plymouth! Dr. Patel is honored and humbled to have been chosen by his peers to fulfill this two-year term. His main goal will be to continue improving, and maintaining, the highest level of quality care available to the hospital’s patients. In working towards achieving this goal, Dr. Patel will assist Beth Israel Deaconess-Plymouth in becoming the leading community hospital in Massachusetts.

Beth Israel Deaconess-Plymouth, formerly Jordan Hospital, in Plymouth, MA joined the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center family in January 2014. Beth Israel Deaconess-Plymouth is a private, non-profit hospital and is proud to provide its surrounding communities with doctors that are experts in their respective fields coupled with the latest technologies.

Dr. Patel is a graduate of John Hopkins University, holds a MD/MBA degree from Tufts University School of Medicine and is double board certified in Otolaryngology and Sleep Medicine. In addition, he is a fellow of the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery and the American College of Surgeons. Dr. Patel specializes in sinus disorders, thyroid conditions, sleep apnea, gastroesophageal reflux disease and hearing and balance disorders.

Dr. Patel’s training, experience and expertise have proven invaluable to both Plymouth Ear, Nose and Throat and Beth Israel Deaconess-Plymouth. Dr. Patel is grateful to have had his hard work and dedication recognized by the very peers that he admires and works closely with. Plymouth Ear, Nose and Throat is confident that Dr. Patel will be extremely successful in this endeavor. Kudos to you, Dr. Anit Patel!

Thyroid Cancer Symptoms

Thyroid cancer symptoms are not always easy to detect, which occasionally makes it hard to diagnose as well. However, all symptoms are not necessarily caused by thyroid cancer at all, but rather by a thyroid nodule. And thyroid nodules are not always cancerous--as a matter of fact, nearly all of them are benign and develop later in life. The following are some symptoms of thyroid cancer that can start as nodules and develop into something more serious.

●        Lumps in the neck: While not every nodule is big enough to cause a recognizable lump, you may be able to feel it. You may notice it when swallowing. The best way to detect and determine if this is dangerous is to have a doctor check it out.

●        Swollen lymph nodes: If you notice your lymph nodes in your neck are swollen and you don’t have any other symptoms, this could be a sign of something bigger. Lymph nodes generally are only swollen when the body is infected with a virus.

●        Hoarse voice: Your thyroid gland sits just below the larynx (more commonly known as your voice box). A thyroid nodule (which may be cancerous) may be pressing on the voice box, causing hoarseness or voice changes. This is an uncommon way that thyroid cancer is detected.

●        Difficulty Swallowing: The thyroid is on top of the windpipe. A developing thyroid cancer may put pressure on your trachea, making breathing more difficult. Your esophagus is below your trachea, so again, a developing thyroid cancer can cause trouble swallowing. This is also an uncommon way that thyroid cancer is detected.

●        Throat Pain: Similar to neck pain, if you have throat pain that won't go away, you should go to see your doctor. It's a possible symptom of thyroid cancer.

If you have any questions or immediate concerns, give us a call at 508-746-8977 to schedule an appointment today!

Watch Out for Summer Allergies!

Here at Plymouth ENT, we’re so excited that it’s finally June and summer is upon us! However, the warm weather and beach days are not always a piece of cake. Summertime allergies can cause severe symptoms for some folks, and can occasionally be just as bad as the spring and fall seasons. Furthermore, the symptoms are not always the run of the mill sniffling and sneezing, and can be a bit more serious if certain factors are in play. It is important to remember that anyone can get allergies and they can appear at anytime, so even if you haven’t had them in the past, be sure to get checked out if you experience and of the following symptoms along with your sniffles.

      Allergic shiners are dark circles under the eyes due to the inflammation of blood vessels beneath the delicate skin in the eye area because of congestion.

      A nasal crease is a line that will appear along the bridge of the nose as a result of rubbing the nose upward and downward to relieve congestion symptoms.

      Mouth breathing occurs when severe congestion occurs and causes rhinitis, which is associated with the development of consistent mouth breathing. Side effects of chronic mouth breathing include a higher, arched palate, an elevated upper lip, and occasionally even an overbite.

      An allergic face is a term used when nasal allergies cause the lymph nodes to swell and result in a tired or droopy appearance of the face. 

Since summer allergies can sometimes be mistaken for colds, reactions to food or other treatments, be sure to check with an allergist if your symptoms are persistent and not going away with routine treatment. If you have any questions, give us a call at 508-746-8977 to schedule an appointment today! 

How You Can Beat Spring Allergies

At last, winter is behind us and the warm weather is on the way! However, the higher temperatures aren’t entirely cause for celebration. For some people, spring brings the worst allergy season of the whole year. In some cases, these allergies can start as early as late February and last until the end of June. In order to be equipped for the months ahead, here are some best practices to effectively cope with your seasonal allergies.

      Limit the time you spend outdoors. Each year, trees release billions of tiny pollen particles into the air, which can trigger an allergic reaction when breathed into the lungs. On windy days and during the morning hours, it’s best to stay inside if possible to avoid exposure to high pollen counts. If staying inside isn’t possible, make sure to wear sunglasses or other eye protection to help keep pollen out of your eyes.

      Take allergy medications. Antihistamines will block your body’s reaction to an allergy, and can help people of all ages with a runny nose or other classic symptoms. Check the box, though! Many of these medications contain some older ingredients that can cause drowsiness. If over-the-counter fixes aren’t cutting it, your doctor may recommend allergy shot treatments.

      Be proactive. If you have allergies annually, start taking medicine a week or two before symptoms start so you can beat them to the punch. This will ensure that the medicine is in your system and you’re ready to fight when the season begins.

      Control your environment. Simple fixes at home can help minimize symptoms as well. Keep windows closed to eliminate pollen and make sure to take your shoes off when entering the home. When possible, don’t hang dry clothes outside. This will attract pollen to the clothes once you bring them back in.

If any of these symptoms sound familiar, or if you have a question for us about treatments, give us a call at 508-746-8977 to schedule an appointment today! 

Is it a Cold or an Allergy?

As the temperature drops and the snow starts to fall, you’ll hear lots of people around you start sniffling and sneezing--it may even be you! While colds and allergies have different symptoms, it’s so important to know the difference so you can seek proper treatment.  It’s sometimes a tough call to figure out where that coughing and sneezing is coming from, but how long your symptoms last can be indicative of what is ailing you.

To start, you have to know the difference between the two. A cold is a manifestation of a virus in your immune system. As soon as your body detects this virus, your immune system goes on the defensive and starts battling it, which causes typical symptoms such as a stuffy nose or a cough. Viruses are contagious and can be transmitted through something as simple as a handshake. On the other hand, allergies are caused by an overactive immune system. Your body mistakenly detects something in your system (such as pollen or dust) and thinks it is harmful, so it immediately starts attacking it. This causes your nasal passages to swell, and leads to sneezing or runny noses. Allergies are not contagious, but some folks may inherit a tendency to get them more often than others.

A few other differences between colds and allergies are certain factors like how long they last, when they happen, and when they start. A cold can last anywhere between 3 and 14 days, whereas an allergy will last from day to a month, depending on how long you are in contact with the allergen. Colds and allergies both depend on time of year, as colds are prominent in winter months and allergies appear on a more seasonal basis. Finally, a cold will start a few days after initial contact with the virus, while an allergic reaction can appear immediately after contact with the allergy trigger.

If you’re experiencing aches, coughs, itchy or watery eyes, or any other traditional allergy or cold symptom, feel free to visit our website for more information. If you are need of allergy testing, give us a call at (508) 746-8977. Stay healthy this winter!

Winter Ear Infections

There’s no denying it — winter has arrived and is here to stay for the foreseeable future! One of the most common cold-weather illnesses is an ear infection, which can be painful and unexpected, especially when you have snow to shovel and errands to run. While some ear infections do subside on their own, most require professional assessment and treatment to ensure full recovery. Generally, an infection should clear up within five days of adequate treatment. Here’s some helpful information about their prevention and treatment, in both adults and children:

●        Preventive measures: You can help avoid infections by maintaining proper hygiene and washing your hands often. Dress appropriately as the weather gets colder (cover those ears!) and make sure to stay vaccinated.

●        Home remedies: Try putting a hot compress against your ear to soothe pain for a quick and easy fix. Also, over-the-counter pain relievers and non-prescription ear drops can help ease any irritation you might be feeling until you’re able to see your physician.

●        Treatment options: Typically, your physician will prescribe an oral antibiotic for an acute ear infection. In more serious cases, medicated ear drops will be offered as well, to help heal rupturing and soothe pain.

●        Pediatric cases: Since children’s ears are still developing, younger kids and infants are more likely to come down with an ear infection. If you have a baby, make sure to hold the child in an upright position when bottle-feeding to help minimize risks. Also, keep in mind that any child in daycare is at greater risk due to the amount of other potentially sick children there. It is always a great idea to check with a daycare facility about their sick child policies and procedures as well.

As always, it’s best to see your doctor as soon as possible if you start to feel feverish or in pain. If you think you are in need of more serious treatment, give us a call today to schedule an appointment, and check out our website so you know what to expect before coming in.

Going on a Noise Diet

Fall’s in full swing, meaning most of us are back into our school and work routines – and reaching for the ear buds. Studies show an increasing number of us are attempting to reclaim personal space in busy offices and school environments by plugging into phones and iPads, using music and podcasts to drown out ambient noise around us and promote concentration.

Whether or not we’re winning the concentration battle is debatable – we’ll leave that to the cognition experts. But how much is this heightened reliance on our own surround-sound harming our hearing? We see the results in our practice every day, and the facts are sobering. 

Earbuds versus Headphones

Conventional ear buds have the dubious distinction of sitting inside your ear (as opposed to headphones, which cover the outside), and that poses two problems. Unless you’ve invested in the noise-canceling variety, your ear buds are having to be turned up to much higher levels to drown out ambient noise, while at the same time sitting at a potentially harmful distance to the ear canal. For our teen population, the result has been an increase in reported hearing loss of over 33% since 1994. 

How Loud is Too Loud?

 When it comes to potential hearing damage from whatever source, noise level and its duration go hand in hand. Take a look at the graphic below for general guidelines:

(chart from http://www.dangerousdecibels.org/education/information-center/decibel-exposure-time-guidelines/)

To put the dB numbers in perspective, vacuum cleaners, city traffic, and noisy restaurants all register at around 85 dB; the maximum level for standard Apple-issued ear buds is just north of 100 dB; an ambulance siren is at 120 dB, and a jack hammer at 130 dB. 

How To Listen Safely With Ear Buds

For safer music listening, here’s what we recommend:

  • Keep your audio output below 85 dB and – ideally - avoid prolonged use. Basically, 85 dB characterizes any noise that has to be shouted over in order to be heard. If you can’t hear your coworkers – or they can hear your music – it’s too loud.
  • Follow the 60/60 rule: that means keeping your volume to 60% for no more than 60 minutes a day. If you’re apt to use ear buds for several hours, then dial that volume down to 30%. If you MUST rock out to that favorite song, keep the volume at a maximum of 50% (and then dial right back down).
  • Consider ditching the factory-issue ear buds in favor of noise-cancelling ones, or even full-on headphones. The higher the quality of listening equipment, the lower the volume you need to shut out ambient noise – and the lower the potential hearing loss. Headphones that fully cover the ears might not always be practical (when exercising, for example) but they’re the best product to turn to in terms of being able to rely on the lowest, safest volume while blocking out distractions.

And never sleep in ear buds! Not only does their nighttime use potentially lead to problematic sleep habits, but they can also cause minor injury, especially in children.

Want more information on hearing loss? Head to our website’s Audiology page.

How to Manage Ragweed Symptoms

The start of fall usually promises more comfortable sleeping weather. Unfortunately for many of us, the combination of cool nights and warm days also brings out the ragweed, fall’s most prominent allergy trigger. Since nearly 1 in 5 of us are affected, we thought we’d share with you some facts about ragweed and strategies for managing symptoms.

 

Some facts about ragweed you may not know:

  • A member of the daisy family, ragweed most often grows in fields, gardens, and roadsides, and releases its peak pollen amounts through September and October.
  • Each ragweed plant can release about a billion grains of pollen per day, and those grains can travel over 400 miles, just on normal wind currents!
  • Over the last 10-15 years, ragweed season has grown longer by about four weeks – most likely because of climate change.

To manage symptoms most effectively:

  • Take fall allergy medication 2 weeks before symptoms usually begin.
  • After spending time outdoors, shower, change, and wash your clothes.
  • When working in the yard or garden, wear a mask – preferably a N95 variety as it offers the highest filtering capability.
  • Don’t hang wet laundry outside to air-dry; pollen will stick to it.
  • Foods that carry proteins similar to ragweed pollen can intensify symptoms; ones to avoid include bananas, melons, honey, sunflower seeds, and chamomile tea.
  • Continue taking allergy medications for 2 weeks after the first frost, as nasal and eye symptoms can linger after ragweed pollen is gone from the air.

If you suspect you have a ragweed allergy but haven’t been diagnosed, you should see an allergist promptly this fall before the season kicks into high gear. If you have a known allergy but aren’t able to manage symptoms, there may be more effective treatments available for you to try! Give us a call to schedule a consult, or head to our website’s allergy page for more information on testing and treatment.

Want more tips? Head to www.sleepfoundation.org

Top 6 Tips for Back to School Sleep

With many pediatric patients heading back to school this month, we’re hearing from parents who are concerned about making the transition from a carefree summer to stricter school hours – particularly when it comes to sleep habits. If you’re willing to start a few weeks early, cycling back to a regular sleep schedule can be quite doable! Here’s what we recommend to families in our practice:

 

  • Work to ADJUST BEDTIME. First, remember that all school-aged kids – even teenagers – need a solid nine hours’ sleep a night to perform at their best. With that in mind, begin moving kids’ target bedtimes earlier in increments, starting two weeks before school begins. Ditto for wake-up time (although we say go easy on how you wake the kids for the first week or so – maybe begin by simply leaving their door open to outside noise).
  • BAN ELECTRONICS starting one hour before bedtime. We say this to adults, too – the stimulation of staring at an interactive screen works directly against the brain’s ability to wind down and get ready for sleep.  Ideally, remove all electronic devices from younger kids’ bedrooms, and encourage teenagers to do so themselves to avoid the constant temptation to update social media, etc.
  • RELAX THE MOOD. Younger kids often experience a burst of energy after dinner; let them run that out, and then consciously bring the mood down with a hot bath, story time, a talk in the hammock, even a simple card game. Older kids should be encouraged to finish up summer reading or just enjoy a book for pleasure – you could even encourage older kids to select a book for family reading and pre-bedtime discussion.
  • EAT DINNER EARLIER. Enjoying a big meal before bedtime stimulates digestion and can work against sleep. And avoid all caffeine or sugary drinks up to three hours before hitting the hay.
  • CREATE A COZY ROOM. Temperature is very important when it comes to getting quality sleep; better to be on the cool side than warm and stuffy, and ideally let lots of fresh air in. A fan can help too, with air circulation as well as noise mitigation. A chaotic room works against relaxation – so take 15 minutes and tidy up before bedtime. Use low lighting and – again – NO electronics are also key to an ideal sleeping environment.
  • WALK THE WALK. As is true in most parenting matters, it’s best to practice what you preach when it comes to modeling good sleep habits. Stick to your own guidelines, set the tone for the household, and we are confident that your whole family will benefit!

Want more tips? Head to www.sleepfoundation.org

What You Need to Know About Swimmers Ear

If you or your family members love to swim in the summertime, take a minute to learn some important facts about otitis externa, or Swimmer’s Ear – a painful and preventable ailment we see a whole lot of at Plymouth ENT during South Shore summers!

WHAT is Swimmer’s Ear, and what are its symptoms?

Swimmer’s Ear is an infection of the outer ear canal that is most often caused by water being trapped in the ear, causing the spread of bacteria or fungal organisms. Its symptoms include a full or blocked sensation in the ear; pain that can radiate to the neck, face, or side of the head; ear drainage; fever; redness or swelling around the ear, and swollen area lymph nodes.

WHO gets it, and how? 

People of all ages can get Swimmer’s Ear, most commonly because of water trapped in the ear canal. But other contributing factors include contact with excessive bacteria in hot tubs; excessive cleaning of the ear canal (with Q Tips, for example); a cut in the skin of the ear canal; or other skin conditions affecting the ear canal, like eczema.

HOW can you prevent Swimmer’s Ear?

A dry ear is unlikely to become infected; so towel off carefully after swimming, and tip each ear to the side gently, parallel to the ground, to allow water to escape the ear canal. Gently pulling each ear lobe will help. If you still feel water in your ears, use a hair dryer at its lowest setting, several inches from your ear, for 2-3 minutes.

Do not put ANY objects in your ear canal, including cotton swabs, and don’t try to remove earwax; it’s essential to prevent infection. If you suspect excessive earwax, consult your physician for assistance.

Ask your pool or hot tub management team if disinfectant and pH levels are checked at least twice a day, as they’re less likely to spread germs. You can also check these levels yourself – click here to find out how.

Here’s a great video with more information on how to enjoy swimming while keeping your ears infection-free!