Sean Coleman, a local allergist of Calhoun Ear, Nose and Throat, who specializes in diseases of the head and neck, thyroid, voice, facial plastic and reconstructive surgery, shares information about allergens, treatment options and over the counter products that he recommends during the spring allergy season.
Before he treats a patient’s allergies, Coleman explained, he gives them a basic understanding of the two types of allergen groups: seasonal and perennial.
Seasonal allergies come during spring, summer and fall season only; whereas, perennial allergies are year-round and include allergies to molds, dust mites and animal dander.
In general, Coleman said that are three ways to treat seasonal allergies: avoidance of the allergic triggers, use of medication and allergy shots (immunotherapy).
Avoidance of Allergic Triggers
Allergists remind patients that avoidance of the causes of a person’s allergy symptoms can often be the best way to prevent symptoms.
This form of treatment can mean avoiding offending agents, such as certain foods or animal dander. Coleman’s tips for reducing allergens in the home include: using a Hepa filter cleaner, washing pillow cases in hot water and using an air purifer system to control pet dander.
But for things allergy sufferers can’t avoid, such as pollen, Coleman said it’s necessary for them to defend themselves properly.
“I tell patients that pollen is worst in the morning. Take a walk in the evening,” Coleman said.
Many of is patients, Coleman said think they have a grass allergy if they show symptoms during yard work mowing the grass. However, he said, allergists find that many patients are really reacting to mold, which is found on blades of grass.
To minimize allergic reactions, before you mow, wear a face mask or use an over the counter nasal spray, and afterward, take a shower and put on fresh clothes as a further preventive measure.
For some allergy sufferers, avoidance may not be enough and medication may be necessary. Treatment may be seasonal or year round and it’s best to consult your family care physician.
Antihistamines are the most common medication option.
These medicines work by blocking allergic responses at any of the steps in the sequence of events. Because histamine production is one of the later steps in the process, the most common medications Coleman recommends are Claritin and Zyrtec, in addition to cromalyn sodium and a decongestant when needed.
“My approach is to keep it simple. We see a patient and go through their history and when they are having symptoms and how many times out of the year,” Coleman said.
Coleman said people with diabetes or high blood pressure should avoid are any over the counter antihistamines with a decongestant.
Coleman suggests not skipping the antihistamine routine, even for people who have been diagnosed with spring allergies and aren’t experiencing symptoms when taking an antihistamine.
Those who use Benadryl as a line of defense on a regular basis should take caution. Coleman said that medical studies have found that children who take Benadryl can lose productivity at school and adults can lose focus at work.
If avoidance and a medication option aren’t providing relief, a person with severe allergies may need some type of allergy immunotherapy, better known as an allergy shot.
Immunotherapy is a treatment plan that will modify or change the immune system by exposing a person to an increased amount of what they are allergic to, Coleman explained.
“You can reduce the sensitivity to the allergy,” he said.
According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology: an immunotherapy treatment consists of a series of injections containing small amounts of the substance to which a person is allergic. After a course of allergy shots, 80 to 90 percent of patients have less allergy symptoms, and in many cases their allergies have completely resolved.
Allergy shots are given at the physician’s office and patients generally must wait 20 to 30 minutes after the injection incase a reaction occurs following the shot.
Seeing an allergist
Approximately every one out of four people suffers from some form of allergy, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. The following is a list of reasons that may warrant an evaluation by an allergist:
Sources: American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.