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It’s that time of the year when runny noses, itchy eyes, and scratchy throats start. It is allergy season. For many people, when spring starts and trees and grass grow they start getting allergy symptoms. Allergies can happen all year, though.

Common environmental allergies can be due to dust mites, animals, pollen, grass and trees, just to name a few. Each of these allergies can happen more often in different times of the year. Grass and trees are often bothersome to people in spring, whereas pollens are in the late summer. Dust mite allergies can be found all year round.

When symptoms are bad, many people turn to medications for help. There are some things you can try prior to using medications. For example, for dust mite allergies you can try using dust mite covers on your pillow and bed. Staying in air conditioning may help symptoms when the pollen count is high. You can also flush out the allergens by using a netti pot or saline eye drops.

Medications that can be helpful include decongestants and antihistamines. Decongestants help relieve nasal congestion symptoms once they have started. Antihistamines block the histamine reaction and help prevent symptoms from happening. They often have to be taken several days to weeks prior to exposure to the allergens. Nasal steroids can also help decrease nasal congestion symptoms and work right at the source of the congestion. There are allergy eye drops that help with itchy, watery eyes too.

If you are having allergy symptoms that are not improving with over the counter medication, it is time to see your primary care doctor to discuss your symptoms. There may be another reason for your symptoms or other medication or treatments to consider. Allergy testing may also be needed to figure out what specifically you are allergic to so that you can avoid the allergen.

This article was originally published on March 20, 2015, and was updated on April 10, 2017.

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Did you know that 1 in 3 women suffer from or will develop a pelvic floor disorder during their lifetime?

Pelvic floor disorders are problems related to bladder, bowel and sexual function. They include different types of urine leakage (incontinence) or bladder control problems like going frequently, getting up at night to urinate, or getting strong, uncontrollable urges to urinate. Pelvic floor disorders also include problems related to the bowels such as accidental loss of gas or stool. Finally, a condition known as prolapse, which is a feeling that the pelvic organs (bladder, uterus, vagina or rectum) are bulging or falling out, is also a pelvic floor disorder.

The risk for pelvic floor disorders increases with age. While these conditions are often linked to having children, there are other reasons they can develop. There are also many conditions that make pelvic floor disorders worse that can be managed with relative ease. Many women suffer silently from these conditions. They assume that these conditions are a normal part of the aging process. They also assume that because their mother or sister had it, then they are destined to get it too.

Fortunately pelvic floor disorder are not life threatening. They primarily affect a woman’s quality of life. That means that they do not have to be treated right away. Depending on how bothersome the condition is, a watch and wait approach is often acceptable. However, a thorough evaluation is needed first to ensure it is safe to wait.

Once a pelvic floor disorder affects a woman’s quality of life, there are a number of treatment options available. Many of these options are conservative and non-invasive like lifestyle, behavior, or diet changes. Other treatments include medications, physical therapy and surgery in some cases. Each woman is different; therefore each woman’s treatment plan will be different.

Be open with your doctor about your symptoms and ask about treatment options. You can also ask about seeing a specialist and request a referral if needed. There are qualified specialists in your area that are willing to help you break free from pelvic floor disorders.

This article was originally published on October 20, 2014, and was updated on March 30, 2017.

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Question: My wife and I are expecting our first child. My primary care physician suggested we get our vaccinations updated prior to the baby arriving and make sure our families are vaccinated as well. We were both vaccinated as kids. What type of immunizations should we be planning for?

Answer: Congratulations on your first baby! There are a few vaccinations that are important for your wife to get during pregnancy, because they will also protect your child before he can get his own vaccines. The vaccines are important for you and any close family members who will be frequently around the baby to get as well. Even if you were immunized as a child, you may be due for a booster because immunities can fade over time, or if a vaccination wasn’t available when you were young.

These are the vaccinations that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend for both parents and other family members.

THE FLU VACCINE

The flu vaccine protects against three strains of influenza virus. The CDC recommends that everyone, every year, get a flu vaccine. It’s especially important for pregnant women to get because the immunity can be passed through to the fetus, helping protect the baby when it’s less than 6 months and too young to get the vaccine. It’s also important that anyone who lives with or cares for babies less than 6 months gets the vaccine.

THE CHICKEN POX VACCINE

Chicken pox tends to be a more serious illness in adults than in children. If a woman catches chicken pox while pregnant, she could get really sick. There’s also a small chance it could affect the fetus. The vaccine is the best way to prevent chicken pox. If you’re not immune (if you’ve never had it or been vaccinated), you should get the vaccine. Pregnant women who are unsure of their immunity should be tested and will be given the first dose right after giving birth.

THE TDAP VACCINE

The CDC recommends the Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis) for all adults; women should get it during each pregnancy. Anyone with regular contact with babies under a year of age should get a Tdap shot as soon as possible (at least two weeks prior to contact is recommended). Pertussis can be life-threatening for babies, and they’re most likely to catch it from a family member. It’s highly contagious and causes severe coughing attacks that can last for months.

THE HEPATITIS A VACCINE

Hepatitis A is prevalent in many parts of the world. It causes jaundice, diarrhea and flu-like symptoms that can be severe. The CDC recommends anyone adopting or caring for a child from a country outside of the US, Western Europe, New Zealand, Australia, Canada or Japan should be vaccinated.

THE MMR VACCINE

The MMR vaccine protects against measles, mumps and rubella (German measles). Anyone born after 1956 that hasn’t gotten the vaccine, or hasn’t had a positive result on a blood test for rubella immunity should be vaccinated. If you’re pregnant, you’ll have to wait until after the baby is born to get the shot. Some adults, not all, are immune to German measles. However, if it is contracted during pregnancy, you could miscarry or give birth to a child with serious birth defects.

If you have questions about these vaccines, please contact your primary care physician. They should have your immunization records and will work with you and your wife on your specific needs and testing for immunities.

This article was originally published on September 22, 2014, and was updated on March 28, 2017.