A photo President Barack Obama and other senior officials watching the operation live from the White House situation room has become one of the most striking images of the raid that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. In it, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is shown with her hand over her mouth. It now seems that this gesture may have a more innocent meaning. When asked about the photo during a visit to Rome, Secretary Clinton reported:
“Those were 38 of the most intense minutes. I have no idea what any of us were looking at that particular millisecond when the picture was taken. I am somewhat sheepishly concerned that it was my preventing one of my early spring allergic coughs. So it may have no great meaning whatsoever.”
If seasonal allergies were the cause of Secretary Clinton’s gesture, she would hardly be alone. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America:
An allergen is something that triggers an allergy. When a person with allergic rhinitis breathes in an allergen such as pollen or dust, the body releases chemicals, including histamine. This causes allergy symptoms such as itching, swelling, and mucus production.
The pollens that cause hay fever vary from person to person and from region to region. Tiny, hard to see pollens more often cause hay fever. Examples of plants commonly responsible for hay fever include:
The amount of pollen in the air can play a role in whether hay fever symptoms develop. Hot, dry, windy days are more likely to have increased amounts of pollen in the air than cool, damp, rainy days when most pollen is washed to the ground.
Symptoms that occur shortly after you come into contact with the substance you are allergic to may include:
Symptoms that may develop later include:
The best treatment is to avoid what causes your allergic symptoms in the first place. It may be impossible to completely avoid all your triggers, but you can often take steps to reduce exposure.
Treatments for allergic rhinitis include:
Antihistamines work well for treating allergy symptoms, especially when symptoms do not happen very often or do not last very long.
Antihistamines taken by mouth can relieve mild to moderate symptoms, but many can cause sleepiness. Some may be bought over the counter, without a prescription. Talk to your doctor before giving these medicines to a child, as they may affect learning.
Newer antihistamines cause little or no sleepiness. Some are available over the counter. They usually do not interfere with learning. These medications include loratidine (Claritin) and cetirizine (Zyrtec). Other antihistamines are available by prescription. Azelastine (Astelin) is a antihistamine nasal spray that is used to treat allergic rhinitis.
Nasal corticosteroid sprays are the most effective treatment for allergic rhinitis. They work best when used nonstop, but they can also be helpful when used for shorter periods of time. They are only available with a prescription from your doctor. They are safe for children and adults.
Decongestants may also be helpful in reducing symptoms such as nasal congestion.
Nasal spray decongestants should not be used for more than 3 days. Overuse of nasal decongestants can cause rebound congestion and, for some people, a vicious cycle of overuse and dependence that feels like an addiction.
For more information, click here to go to the Resounding Health Casebook on Allergies.