It’s being called the “Pollen Vortex” of allergy seasons and we have the blood shot eyes and difficulty breathing to prove it (or is that just due to lack of sleep now that my twins are in “big girl” beds?). Breezy Mama turned to Dr. Jill Bryson, MD, primary care physician at Benton Family Clinic, to find out why this allergy season is particularly brutal, the symptoms that you have allergies and the safest treatments.
Why are allergies so bad for people this year?
There was an exceptionally harsh winter this year, with record-setting snowfall in some regions and extended below-freezing temperatures. This elongated winter meant late flowering for trees. As a result, trees had less time to pollinate, causing higher than normal amounts of pollen to be released all at once. This phenomenon is being referred to as the “pollen vortex”.
What are symptoms it’s allergies and not a cold or other illness?
The duration of symptoms is an important indicator. A cold typically lasts 3-14 days whereas allergy symptoms will remain for as long as the allergen is present. If you experience symptoms for longer than two weeks, you should see your primary care physician and request an allergy test.
Another indicator is the color of the mucus. If you are producing large amounts of yellow mucus, it is likely a cold.
What do you recommend to relieve allergies?
Patients that suffer from allergies should discuss care and treatment options with their primary care physician or family doctor. A primary care physician can test, diagnose and provide patients with accessible treatment options. If you have allergies for more than three months out of the year, talk to your doctor about allergy testing and immunotherapy (allergy shots). Immunotherapy treats the root cause of allergies, as opposed to over-the-counter medications (such as Claritin) that only mask symptoms. This means that patients taking immunotherapy will eventually build up an immune response to their allergens, so they don’t need to take ongoing medication. Another added benefit of allergy shots is customization. Unlike immunotherapy tablets that only treat one allergen at a time, allergy shots can be customized to treat all of your allergies simultaneously.
When I take an over the counter med, I get a little pain in my chest. Are there gentler solutions?
If you are experiencing pain from your medications, you should try a different method. There are a number of ways that allergy sufferers can both treat and minimize their symptoms. You may want to consider the following:
· Avoid your allergen: Once you know what allergen is causing a reaction, avoid contact! If you’re allergic to pollen, stay indoors in the morning/evening when pollen counts are at their highest.
· Clean House: Dust and mold are two of the most common allergens. If your allergy test shows you’re allergic to these, wash bedding in hot water to eliminate dust mites and other allergy triggers.
· Shower at night: Pollen in the air builds up on your clothes and hair throughout the day. Minimize your symptoms by showering in the early evening.
· Exercise at night: Pollen counts are highest in the morning so allergy sufferers should try to avoid outdoor exercise at this time.
Who offers the seasonal allergy shots and where can people get them?
Primary care physicians can deliver allergy shots that dramatically impact the quality of life for allergy sufferers. United Allergy Services (UAS) enables primary care physicians, pulmonologists, pediatricians and internal medicine physicians to provide their patients with customized allergy shots that patients can administer themselves at home. This means no more trips back and forth to the allergist’s office and within three to five years you could be symptom free. For seasonal and perennial allergy sufferers, self-administered immunotherapy under the guidance of a primary care physician allows a broader population of patients to receive high-quality, affordable, safe, allergy care so these patients can resume active, full, healthy lifestyles.
What do you recommend as the safest treatment for adults with allergies?
For both children and adults, the first step is to talk to your primary care physician about allergy testing. Allergy testing will allow you to identify and avoid your specific offending allergens. Such “avoidance therapy” in itself may diminish symptoms by as much as 50 percent. If ongoing treatment is necessary, I recommend immunotherapy. The safety of immunotherapy has been proven by more than a century of scientific research and medical practice. Furthermore, it is the only treatment that addresses the actual cause of allergies rather than the symptoms. Immunotherapy has also been shown to decrease the development and onset of new allergies and decrease the risk of developing allergic asthma.
What is the safest treatment for kids suffering from seasonal allergies?
Avoidance is a safe technique but it is generally impractical for kids. Kids should be enjoying life outdoors not suffering from seasonal allergies. I generally recommend immunotherapy.
Anything else you’d like to share about allergy season?
More than anything, be sure to talk to your doctor. Too many people are suffering unnecessarily from allergies and self-medicating. Schedule an appointment with your family doctor or discuss your symptoms during your next appointment. Don’t miss out on outdoor fun this year. Talk to your doctor and get tested.
By Chelsea Gladden
May 5, 2014