Category Archives: News

What’s Making My Throat Itch?

July 15th, 2017

itchyYou can’t scratch the inside of your throat — but sometimes it gets dog-gone itchy. Almost everyone has had the experience of an irritating itchy feeling inside your throat. It can be caused by a variety of things. To solve the puzzle, it’s helpful to look at symptoms that come along with an itchy throat.

Causes
Hay fever (allergic rhinitis) is one of the most common causes of itchy throats. The histamine reaction can make your throat feel irritated. Other common allergy triggers are pollen, dander, dust, and irritants such as cigarette smoke or exhaust fumes.

Itchy throats caused by allergies may be accompanied by:

  • sinus pressure
  • runny or stuffy nose
  • itchy eyes and skin
  • sneezing
  • tiredness
  • swollen, red, or watery eyes

Food and drug allergies can also cause an itchy throat. The allergy may be mild, ending with an itchy throat or mouth. But they can also be life-threatening, so care is needed. Common trigger foods include peanuts, shellfish, eggs, milk, and wheat. 
Many people have allergies to certain medications including penicillin and other antibiotics. Some medications cause dry coughs and itchy throats even if you aren’t allergic to them. People taking ACE inhibitors for high blood pressure should know that they can cause an itchy throat and dry cough.

 

When caused by food or drug allergies, itchy throats may come with:

  • hives
  • redness of skin around the eyes
  • itchy ears
  • nausea and vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • stomach pain
  • swelling of the lips, tongue, and throat
  • trouble breathing or swallowing
  • sense of doom
  • drop in blood pressure
  • loss of consciousness

 

Strep throat, tonsillitis, and viruses may start with an itchy throat before progressing to a sore one. If it is just a cold, the itchy throat likely won’t progress beyond mildly sore. If a person has a flu infection, their throat will be more severe and accompanied by fever, body aches, and chest discomfort. If the itchy throat is caused by an acute illness, it will probably be short-lived and accompanied by a combination of the following symptoms:

  • fever
  • swollen glands
  • muscle aches
  • weakness
  • headache
  • cough
  • nasal congestion

 

Dehydration is common during hot weather, after exercise, or during illness, and can make your throat feel itchy. When the itchy throat is caused by dehydration, other symptoms can include

  • extreme thirst
  • dry mouth
  • infrequent dark urine

 

Heartburn can cause an itch. Some people have a condition called silent reflux and may only notice a chronic, itchy throat as a symptom. But this is the exception. Normally, reflux or heartburn comes along with:

  • difficulty or pain when swallowing
  • burning sensation in chest or throat
  • gas
  • inflamed voice box
  • worn down tooth enamel
  • inflamed gums
  • bad taste in mouth

 

What To Do About It

 

A doctor does not always need to examine an itchy throat. Many times, home treatments are effective. How to best treat an itchy throat depends on what is causing it. Here there are some tried and tested remedies that may help:

  • a spoonful of honey to coat the throat
  • salt water gargles
  • lozenges and cough drops
  • nasal spray
  • hot tea with lemon and honey
  • over-the-counter allergy or cold medications
  • nasal sprays

 

There are also steps you can take to avoid getting an itchy throat in the first place. If you smoke, try to quit. Drink plenty of water, especially in hot weather. Avoid drinking caffeine and alcohol, which can irritate your throat.

 

If your symptoms last for more than 10 days, get worse, or don’t respond to self-care, you should see a doctor. Get help immediately if your itchy throat comes with trouble breathing, wheezing, hives, swelling in the face, a severe sore throat, fever, or difficulty swallowing.

Are Antibiotics Always the Best Path to Treat Sinus and Ear Infections?

May 18th, 2017

antiIf you have a painful sinus problem or ear infection, you just want relief … and swallowing antibiotics can seem like the easiest path to recovery. About 90% of adults in the U.S. end up getting an antibiotic for acute sinusitis from their general practice doctor. Ear infections tell the same story; millions of parents take their children to the pediatrician for ear infections, and most of them end up going home with antibiotics.

But antibiotics may not always be the best remedy, according to recent research. Many medical groups are now recommending that doctors prescribe antibiotics with more caution. Research has shown that 60% to 70% of people with sinus infections recover without antibiotics. About 70% of children get better from ear infections on their own within two or three days, and about 80% are better within a week to 10 days.

There are some real downsides to using antibiotics when they’re not necessary — they can cause upset stomachs, allergic reactions and other problems. And they can contribute to the development of superbugs — infections that are getting harder and harder to cure.

It is difficult for doctors to know what is causing an infection just by observation. Sinus and ear infections can be caused by bacterial infection (for which antibiotics generally work)… but they can also be caused by viruses, drainage problems, and other conditions for which antibiotics definitely offer no help. Antibiotics may be more appropriate to give to certain patients who are less able to fight off infection, such as those with diabetes, or serious heart or lung disease. And antibiotics should be considered in patients with severe sinusitis symptoms.

And there are some kids who definitely should get antibiotics for ear infections, such as those ages 6 months to 2 years who have infections in both ears or any child who has severe symptoms, such as severe pain for several days and a fever of at least 102.2 degrees. Any child who has a ruptured eardrum should also get antibiotics.

The new guidelines recognize the need for physicians to decide the best way to treat each person. Sometimes a “wait and see” approach will give people flexibility … they get a prescription for antibiotics, but are instructed not to use it until they are more certain that the infection won’t resolve on it’s own. The longer symptoms last, the more likely a sinus problem is to be a bacterial infection, some experts say. The new guidelines also recommend ways parents can protect their kids from ear infections in the first place, such as by breast-feeding and keeping kids away from cigarette smoke.

At-Home Treatments for Nasal Congestion

April 18th, 2017

ouchA stuffy nose is an annoying, distracting, and very common problem. Most of us get an occasional stuffy nose from viral infections (such as a cold), from allergies, or as a side-effect of pregnancy. Inflammation and swelling inside the nose make you feel stuffed up and uncomfortable. Mucus and drainage may also join the party. You don’t necessarily need to run to the doctor every time you get the sniffles. In most cases nasal congestion can be treated effectively at home.

Steam Up the Bathroom
Take a hot shower or soak in a warm bath to decrease nasal congestion. The steam helps mucus drain from the nose and improves breathing. Although the benefits of the steam may not last, it provides temporary relief … which can be all you need to get through the day or get some precious sleep.

Warm Compress
Warmth may decrease sinus congestion and tightness in the nose and face. Wet a washcloth with very warm water and apply it to the face (be sure it isn’t too hot). You can add slices of fresh ginger or lemon to the water while soaking the washcloth for a pleasant aroma and additional relief.

Saline spray
A shot or two of store-bought saline spray (a mix of salt and sterile water) may help decrease tissue inflammation in the nose. These sprays do not contain medication, so they are usually safe to use during pregnancy. You can buy them over-the-counter in many stores.

Sinus Flush
There are several kinds of bottles that can be used to flush out sinuses. Neti pots are used to effectively wash mucus out of sinuses, but they require you to “sniff” in liquid, which can be hard for some people. A specially-designed squeeze bottle and saline solution can also be to flush the mucus out of each nostril. Distilled or previously boiled water (that is cooled) can be used to avoid bacteria from tap water.

Cool moisture
Adding moisture to the air from a cool mist humidifier can help to thin mucus and make draining easier. It can also help to reduce inflammation inside the nose. It’s important to keep a humidifier clean to prevent bacterial growth inside the machine. Follow the manufacturer’s cleaning recommendations.

Drink Up
Be sure to drink enough water. Being well-hydrated causes the mucus to be more thin and makes it easier to push fluid from the nose.

Eucalyptus Oil
Eucalyptus oil is a concentrated natural oil from the leaves of the eucalyptus tree. For adults without allergies to eucalyptus, inhaling the oil can decrease inflammation of the nasal lining and make breathing easier. Place a few drops of the oil in a pot of simmering water to fill your room with the scent and steam, or use an essential oil diffuser.

Over-the-Counter Medicines
Some stuffy noses are due to allergic reaction. Some allergy medications contain antihistamine to block this reaction. Read the directions and understand the side effects before taking these medications.

Decongestants also help with nasal congestion. They work by causing small blood vessels in the nose to narrow, which decreases swelling. Over-the-counter and prescription medications are available. If you have high blood pressure, ask your doctor before taking decongestants. Decongestants can have side effects, so be informed before taking them.

If your nasal congestion continues for more than 10 days, it may be time to see a doctor. Other things that might signal a more serious problem and require a visit to our offices include:

– green mucus
– facial pain
– pain in the ear
– headache
– fever
– coughing
– chest tightness

If you have any questions or concerns, grab your tissues and make an appointment today!

Nasal Spray Long-Term Use: Is There Cause for Concern?

October 19th, 2016

466764395_XSWhen you have a stuffy nose, a squirt or two of the right nasal spray can help you feel better. But even though many of these medicines are sold over-the-counter, you still need to know how to use them in order to avoid problems – and even damage to the inside of your nose.

There are several types of nasal spray. Some are safe to use every day for several months. Others can cause what is known as “nasal spray addiction” if used for more than just a few days. This is not a true addiction, but can cause swelling and long-term stuffiness that may lead to further misuse of the spray. It could become a serious problem. Sometimes a person may need additional treatment – even surgery – to correct damage. It’s important to know the different types of nasal sprays and how to use them safely.

Saline Nasal Sprays
Saline sprays can help loosen and thin mucus in the nose. They do not contain medications, and have no side effects. They are generally considered safe for all ages. They contain sterilized water and a small amount of salt (sodium chloride). Some also contain preservatives that prevent the growth of mold or bacteria. Saline sprays are not addictive.

Steroid Nasal Sprays
Steroid nasal sprays don’t contain steroids like those sometimes used for body building (anabolic). They instead have corticosteroids, which calm inflammation caused by an overactive immune system response. This drug is used to treat nasal allergy symptoms like sneezing and runny nose. It can provide relief from hay fever or nasal allergies. It takes several days to work, and must be used every day during the allergy season to be effective. Some corticosteroids may slow growth in children, especially if used for a long time. Children should only use steroid nasal sprays under the guidance of a doctor.

Steroid nasal sprays are commonly available in stores, although some may require a prescription. The active ingredients may be listed as fluticasone propionate or triamcinolone acetonide. Steroid nasal sprays are not addictive, and are safe to use daily for most people up to six months, although they can have some side effects.

Antihistamine Nasal Sprays
Antihistamines have been used for years to treat seasonal allergies by blocking a chemical responsible for allergy symptoms. Cromolyn sodium is an antihistamine spray available over the counter and can be used in ages 2 and up as directed. It may take a week or more of daily use before a person feels complete relief. Antihistamine nasal sprays are not addictive, and can be used up to 12 weeks. Those who need to use them for longer should ask their doctor.

Decongestant Nasal Sprays
Decongestant sprays are available over the counter and are designed to temporarily shrink the blood vessels in the nose. The active ingredient is oxymetazoline, although they are sold under several brand names. Decongestant nasal sprays ARE addictive. If a decongestant nasal spray is used too frequently or for too long, you can develop “rebound congestion.” You may find that you want to use the spray more frequently than recommended. Each time the spray is used, the blood vessels in the nose narrow, causing the tissue inside the nose to shrink. After the medicine wears off, it swells again, sometimes even more than before. This swelling can become more severe and may even lead to permanent swelling of the tissue. Long-term use of these sprays can also damage tissue, causing infection and pain.

The American Academy of Asthma, Allergy and Immunology recommends using decongestant nasal sprays for no more than twice a day for only 3 days. If you use the spray more frequently, you should see a doctor. The nasal tissue will be checked for damage or excess swelling. Typically, a person will need to stop using the spray and may need a different medication to relieve the swelling, such as a steroid nasal spray.

If you have questions about how to use nasal sprays, or which one is best for you, call South Valley Ear, Nose & Throat to make an appointment with our knowledgeable physicians.

The World at a Twirl: Dizziness and Your Health

October 19th, 2016

o-MATURE-DIZZY-facebookJust moments before you were planted on solid ground, but now you seem to be standing upright on a tilt-a-whirl. Feelings of lightheadedness and vertigo can be unsettling – they can make your day less efficient, less pleasant, or sometimes cause it to come to a screeching halt. Problems with balance are not uncommon. Around 40 percent of Americans will see a doctor because of dizziness at some point in their lives, according to the National Institute of Health (NIH).

Dizziness is an important issue for older adults. Falls and falling are a leading cause of injury in people over 65. Older adults are more likely to take medications and have conditions that lead to dizziness. And as you age, the systems that create balance are affected. But young or old, nobody is immune.

A solid sense of balance is an important part of good health. It requires the coordination of three bodily functions; vision, the ability to sense your body’s position, and receptors in the inner ear. For many, dizziness simply goes away after a time. But dizziness can sometimes be a sign of other problems. Dizziness has many potential causes and can be linked to more than one factor. As a result, diagnosing the cause can take time.

Potential Causes of Vertigo and Light-headedness

  • Blood pressure. A drop in blood pressure can cause light-headedness.
  • Overheating. Being active in hot weather can cause dehydration and lead to feelings of dizziness.
  • Low blood sugar. This can prompt unsteadiness, sweating, and anxiety, especially in those with diabetes.
  • Medications. Side effects of many medications include feelings of light-headedness: antidepressants, sedatives, tranquilizers, and drugs for high blood pressure and seizures.
  • Anxiety. Feeling faint is a common symptom of panic attacks and anxiety-related disorders, such as agoraphobia.
  • Neurological disorders. Diseases such as Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis may cause lightheadedness.
  • BPPV. If you feel like you are spinning when they lie down or turn your head, you may have BPPV. This is an inner ear disturbance caused by loose particles. Most cases of BPPV improve on their own within 6 weeks, although treatment can speed up the process.
  • Meniere’s disease: This disease is associated with hearing loss and ringing in the ears. Meniere’s disease is most common in people in their 40s and 50s. Your ears may feel blocked or plugged.
  • Labyrinthitis: This condition is caused by a virus and can result in vertigo and sudden hearing loss.
  • Migraine: Some migraines can be accompanied by vertigo, as well as sensitivity to light and noise.
  • Pregnancy: Dizziness is fairly common during pregnancy, especially the first trimester. Hormonal changes alter the stretchiness of blood vessels. This increases blood flow to the uterus but may lower blood pressure. Low blood sugar, due to demands on a woman’s body during pregnancy, can also cause dizziness. The weight of the baby pressing on blood vessels can have a similar effect.

Symptoms that go along with your dizziness can be clues to the underlying cause, so pay attention to the following before your appointment:

  • Vision problems
  • Buzzing or ringing in the ears
  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Ear pain
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Speech problems
  • Sweating

If you have serious symptoms such as vomiting, garbled speech, fainting, chest pain, high fever or head trauma along with feeling dizzy, seek medical care immediately, as these may be signs of a serious condition.

Most often, dizziness goes away on its own. But if you have questions, or want help finding the cause of your dizziness, give us a call today to make an appointment with our knowledgeable doctors.

Decibels and Keeping Your Ears Healthy

August 22nd, 2016

What do the following items have in common?

  1. Mowing the lawn
  2. Indoor/outdoor concerts and parades
  3. Vacuuming the floor
  4. Demolition derby
  5. Using a blender
  6. Rodeos/Concerts
  7. Water skiing/wake boarding/wave runners

All of these activities involve elevated decibel levels which can lead to hearing loss. Sound is measured in decibels and knowing how much noise can damage hearing is a good step to protect your ears. We only get one set of ears, so let’s keep them healthy.

Experts agree that hearing damage can happen if a person is around noise that is 80-85 dB–which is the sound level of a busy city street. Lawn mowers, screaming children and rock music clock come in around 110 dB with ambulance sirens, jet engines and firecrackers taking the top spots at 130-140 dB. Exposure to noise around the 105 dB level for just 15 minutes each week can cause permanent hearing loss.  However, continued exposure to sounds around the 80-85 decibel level over time can be just as damaging if you are exposed to them each day.

Use earplugs whenever you will be around noises with elevated decibel levels. Turn down the music or the television. Keep that digital music device at safe levels and be cautious when driving with the radio cranked up. Small space and big noises are not a winning combination for your ears.

Stand up for your hearing and acquire appropriate ear protection if you work in loud conditions.  Give your hearing a holiday by by refraining from loud music or other noises.  Your ears will need around 16 hours of rest after two hours of 100 dB entertainment or work.

If you suspect your hearing may be waning, please schedule an appointment with South Valley Ear Nose & Throat.  Our audiologists and physicians can determine the type of hearing loss you may be experiencing and will create a treatment plan to help you preserve and possibly correct your hearing issues.

What are Adenoids?

July 7th, 2016

Ever wonder why tonsils and adenoids are sometimes removed at the same time? Or why sometimes just the tonsils are removed?

Adenoids live in the upper area of the nasal cavity in the throat. A person can’t see their adenoids by looking into a mirror like with the tonsils. Doctors can examine the adenoids using a small mirror or flexible telescope.

Enlarged-Tonsils-and-Adenoids-1024x569

Adenoids exist to help filter out bacteria and viruses that enter the body as a part of the immune system. Adenoids are the most helpful in early childhood as the body is developing its immunity arsenal. As a person gets older, the effectiveness of the adenoids decreases along with the size of the adenoids. In fact, by the time a person is a teenager, the adenoids have almost disappeared completely, which answers the question about why you may still have your adenoids even though you have had your tonsils removed.

Adenoids are removed when they pose a health risk to the patient. Sometimes the adenoids can become swollen to the point of causing a person to breathe through their mouth because the air flow to the nose is restricted. Snoring at night is common among those with enlarged adenoids as is a constantly runny nose. Swollen adenoids may even block the eustachian tubes in the ears, leading to trapped fluid in the middle ear and ear infections.

If you think swollen adenoids are causing the above mentioned symptoms in yourself or your child, make an appointment with one of the physicians at South Valley Ear Nose and Throat. A simple history and examination will take place, after which, a treatment plan will be implemented. Sometimes surgery is recommended. If that is the case, you will be given information on what to expect with your surgery and what to expect after the procedure.

Illustration Credit: Monty V. Trimble, MD

Hearing Aids at South Valley Ear Nose & Throat

June 16th, 2016

Hearing aids come in various shapes and sizes and have distinct purposes. The overall use of hearing aids is to help those with hearing loss hear more clearly, loudly and allow them to be able to communicate, listen and better participate in their daily activities.

All hearing aids have three main parts: microphone, speaker, and an amplifier. The microphone collects the sounds and sends them as electric signals to the amplifier which increases sound level and clarity and the speaker delivers the sounds to the ear canal.

Did you know that only one in five people who need them actually get hearing aids? You should not be one of those who is left out of conversations or the ability to fully enjoy your surroundings because of hearing loss.

The physicians at South Valley Ear Nose & Throat can talk with you and properly diagnose the cause of your hearing issues. They will perform a hearing test which allows them to asses the type of hearing loss you may be experiencing. It is painless and easy to schedule.

If hearing aids are recommended, you will have the ability to choose from different models depending upon personal preference and insurance options. The main types of hearing aids include:

Behind-the-ear: The electronic components are contained in a small plastic case worn behind the ear with a speaker inserted into the ear. This type is used for mild to profound hearing loss.

In-the-ear: The electronic components are held in a hard plastic case that fits completely inside the outer ear area, not behind the ear, with the speaker directed to the ear canal. These devices are used for patients who have mild to severe hearing loss.

Canal: These devices are designed and molded to sit inside the patient’s ear canal. Depending of the style, they can be somewhat visible to nearly undetectable in the ear. This type of hearing aid is more difficult to access due to their small size and position in the ear.

Your South Valley Ear Nose & Throat audiologist will help you choose the most appropriate hearing aid for you depending on the type of hearing loss you have and pricing considerations.

Seeking Relief from Seasonal Allergies

April 27th, 2016

grass
At some point living in Utah, you or someone you know will experience the uncomfortable symptoms of allergies. Allergy season in Utah can start as early as February and will last until the first hard freeze. Allergy symptoms are also fairly predictable. For example, in March, many people start having watering eyes, running noses and fits of sneezing because of the early Spring bloom. Symptoms come and go as new allergens fly through the air during the Summer and Fall.

Utah has a variety of pollen-producing plants including many trees, grasses and weeds that can make life very uncomfortable. Although not seasonal, pet dander, indoor dust and mites and can also cause havoc on the sinuses.

How do you know if you are allergic to something like pollen or pets?  As opposed to a cold which  generally has symptoms that start and stop (fever, headache and body aches lasting a week or so), allergies are triggered by exposure to the allergen with symptoms lasting as long as you are in contact with the allergen.

If your itchy watery eyes and stuffy or runny nose lasts longer than two weeks, it’s time to meet our allergy professionals at South Valley Ear Nose & Throat. The allergy staff will check things out to discover what you are allergic to and provide the appropriate treatment plan so you can enjoy the great outdoors (and indoors) once again.

An allergy check couldn’t be easier:

  • Call South Valley ENT and get an appointment
  • Before your appointment, write down all known symptoms and triggers
  • Come get tested
  • Get your results and start a treatment plan
  • Breathe a huge sigh of relief and enjoy life!

Hashimoto’s is More Common than You May Think

February 9th, 2016

Hashimoto’s is not the name of the best Japanese restaurant in the United States.  Hashimoto’s Disease is actually the most common thyroid disorder around, affecting 14 million people in the United states alone. With a little Hashimoto’s knowledge in your back pocket, you can decide if you should seek medical attention for your symptoms.

Hashimoto’s Disease is an autoimmune disorder.  What this means is that instead of protecting the thyroid, the immune cells inside your body start attacking the healthy tissue of the thyroid.  This constant bombardment over time can cause the thyroid to become damaged, enlarged and not work properly.  With Hashimoto’s, the thyroid becomes so impaired that it is no longer able to produce thyroid hormone in sufficient quantities, which leads to hypothyroidism.  Hashimoto’s is the leading cause of hypothyroidism.  Some people may even develop a goiter, which is a large and inflamed thyroid that becomes noticeable through the skin on the neck.

Mature female doctor examining her patient

By now you are probably wondering about the symptoms of  Hashimoto’s Disease and whether they are easy to detect.  Hashimoto’s Disease is a slow moving disease and therefore, a person may have Hashimoto’s for quite some time without ever feeling any symptoms. Some of those include:

  • Fatigue
  • Weight gain
  • Sensitivity to cold
  • Dry skin, hair and fingernails
  • Constipation
  • Increased menstrual flow in women
  • Concentration issues

Since Hashimoto’s Disease is not preventable, it is important to recognize the signs and symptoms.  If you are experiencing any of these conditions,  please schedule an appointment at South Valley Ear Nose & Throat.  Our physicians will take a medical history and ask you about your symptoms and how long you have experienced them.  Blood is usually drawn and tested to measure the levels of thyroid hormone in the body.  An ultrasound may be recommended to check out the thyroid to see if there are any other causes for concern.  Following the exam and blood test results, a treatment plan will be discussed and implemented to manage your Hashimoto’s Disease.  Common treatment plans include the use of thyroid hormones to increase the levels of hormone in the body, thereby managing the symptoms.

Hypothyroidism and goiter caused by Hashimoto’s Disease are highly treatable and the sooner a person begins treatment, the sooner they will return to a better quality of life.