By Dr. Maria Simbra

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – People know when their allergies are acting up.

“Typically cough a lot, nose will run a little bit, and get itchy eyes.”
“Itchy throat, watery eyes.”
“Stuffy nose, scratchy throat, cough, tired.”
“I just sneeze. That’s it.”

For some people with allergies, the trouble might actually be deeper.

“They get what we call atypical symptoms, throat clearing, chronically runny nose, coughing,” allergist Dr. James DeAngelo said.

The trouble is because of reflux, a problem where stomach contents flows backward up into the swallowing tube. It affects 7 million Americans.

Doctors have long noted allergy symptoms even when allergy tests are negative, and sinus X-rays are normal. Also, studies have found gastric secretions in nasal secretions. So doctors had a hunch reflux was to blame, but there hasn’t been much direct study of this.

Now, a study has come out looking at people with reflux. Fifty people were treated with a proton pump inhibitor, a standard medicine for reflux, and 50 people — the control group — were not. Symptoms of nasal congestion and pressures inside the nose were followed over 12 weeks.

“Both went down significantly, in fact, they went down so much, they equaled the controls,” says Dr. DeAngelo. “What this now tells us is that there is some sort of scientific evidence and it’s not just a hunch that we had.”

A study in which reflux patients are randomly assigned to get medicine or a placebo would give us more useful information.

But, if there’s any question of the stomach tormenting the nose, this allergist for now will continue to treat his patients for reflux

“It’s not my primary specialty to treat reflux, but it is unfortunately what I’ve come to expect in my practice,” DeAngelo said.

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Dr. Maria Simbra