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.
“Allergies run a very wide spectrum from simply a runny nose and stuffiness to serious problems like asthma and other ailments that can be fatal,” said physician Stanley A. Schwartz, division chief of allergy, immunology and rheumatology at University at Buffalo department of medicine. “That is what makes allergies something that people must pay attention to. Something that may be as small as a food allergy can be life-affecting because there are people who die from peanut allergies because of anaphylactic shock.”
Schwartz, who is also a distinguished professor of medicine and pediatrics at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, discusses five aspects of allergies.
1 — Symptoms
Allergic reactions can cause symptoms such as runny nose, sneezing, congestion, itchy or watery eyes and post nasal drop. 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.
“People used to feel like every allergy season was worse than the previous. But that was just perception because they were just dealing with their current suffering,” said Schwartz. “However, now with global warming and with the spring season starting earlier, it is distinctly obvious that allergy seasons are getting worse and longer with each year.”
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.
“Nasal sprays must be used regularly for it to be effective. If you are not consistent and only use them when you have allergy symptoms starting, it will not work the way it needs to,” said Schwartz.
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. Schwartz said 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.
“This all has to be done in a doctor’s office because there is always a risk of any allergic reaction. Allergy shots over a period of time have been proven to be quite successful. It can help you become desensitized to the symptoms,” said Schwartz. “It has been known to be as high as 97% effective.”
3 — 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.
“One of the reasons why we recommend people come to our offices is because there are a lot of misconceptions and people start to misdiagnose,” said Schwartz.
4 — Causes
Seasonal allergies, sometimes called hay fever, can lead to various reactions with substances in the air such as pollen, falling through the sky. While the timing and severity of an allergy season vary across the country, there are many following climate factors that contribute to how bad your symptoms might be, including trees, grass and ragweed pollen that thrive during cool nights and warm days.
“Allergies happen throughout the year with weather playing a large factor. It can lead to pollen issues and there is no way to turn it all off and on,” said Schwartz.
5 — Misconceptions
Respiratory allergies are various and run the gamut from light to severe. Because of that range there are misconceptions about what can cause allergies including the decision to purchase a pet.
“One of the things people come in is thinking that if they get a special hypoallergenic animal then they don’t have to worry about their allergies. However, the animal’s hair has nothing to do with allergies,” he added. “It is the animal’s saliva.”