By Ernst Lamothe Jr.
While nationwide the temperatures are trending upward and we are experiencing brighter forecasts, we are also seeing an increase in spring and summer allergies.
Around 50 million people suffer from allergies in the U.S., according to The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, which makes it a very common ailment.
“This is the time of year where allergies are most prevalent. These first few months of the spring can be difficult for allergy sufferers. That is also why it is essential to know what affects you,” said physician Nicholas Groch of Lakeshore ENT at Oswego Health.
Physician Melanie Groch, his wife, also works at Lakeshore ENT. She said because allergies run the gamut it is an ailment that a larger portion of the population has than people believe.
Both physicians discuss five aspects of allergy.
1 — Symptoms
Allergic reactions can cause symptoms such as runny nose, sneezing, congestion, itchy or watery eyes and post nasal drip, said Nicholas Groch. In addition, some people experience scratchy throat and fatigue. Allergies also affect your sleep. Allergies can make it difficult to breathe, leading to sleep apnea, snoring and other sleep disorders, according to Groch.
2 — Treatment
Allergies are treated in various ways, ranging from over-the-counter medication such as antihistamines, decongestants and nasal sprays, to severe case solutions such as, allergy shots or immunotherapy. Immunotherapy treatment involves a series of injections of purified allergen extracts, usually given over a period of a few years.
Your physician will help you take steps to identify and avoid your allergy triggers. This is generally the most important step in preventing allergic reactions and reducing symptoms.
Allergy shots are given once a week for six months. It is typically done when allergy season is over so a patient can build tolerance. Then slowly the allergy shots are given once a month.
“There are various over-the-counter methods that can give you some of the relief you need,” said Melanie Groch. “Allergy shots have been known to be very effective especially when you determine what allergies affect you the most.”
3 — Spring vs. summer
Common symptoms of allergies include sneezing, runny nose or nasal congestion, itchy or watery eyes, post nasal drip, cough, or feeling tired. Knowing how to recognize and manage these conditions can improve quality of life and overall health.
There are certain trees that grow in different areas in the United States that affect people differently. The same person who lives on the East Coast may not suffer from any allergies. But that person may travel to Florida for vacation and may have constant allergic reactions.
“I have a patient that is only allergic when they cut the grass. They wear a mask and that is the only time they ever have an issue,” said Nicholas Groch. “They make sure to take a shower as soon as they finish mowing, making sure there is no pollen on their clothes.”
4 — See a physician
If you think you have seasonal allergies, talk to your doctor. Experts can help you establish your triggers along with possible treatment options. Creating your personal blueprint will help you follow and manage your allergies. An allergist can provide a skin test, which involves the patient being pricked with small amounts of proteins found in common allergens. If you’re allergic, the patient develops a raised bump or hive at the test location of the skin.
“A doctor will help you establish your triggers along with possible treatment options,” said Nicholas Groch.
5 — Misconceptions about allergies
Sometimes the symptoms of allergies can mimic those of other conditions — a cold, for example — so it is important to be evaluated by your primary care doctor and, if needed, see an allergist. Respiratory allergies and colds look and feel a lot alike. Both cause sneezing, a runny or stuffy nose, and tiredness. But unlike allergies, colds are caused by a virus, so you can spread them to other people. Allergic rhinitis can be mistaken for a sinus infection, or coughing that is related to underlying asthma might be mistaken for bronchitis. To make sure of the diagnosis and receive the proper treatment, it is important to be evaluated.
“People sometimes see allergies as just affecting the nasal passages. But allergies can affect the lungs with asthma, the skin with hives and throat and tongue with aplastic shock from food allergens,” said Mealnie Groch.