Memorial on KIT1280: Managing spring allergies

We’re entering spring allergy season, and those who suffer from allergies know all too well the misery this time of year brings.  Dr. Ryan Black of Yakima Ear, Nose & Throat offers some tips for avoiding and treating allergies.

Here are some stats to consider:

  • 50 million Americans suffer allergies.  That’s 30 percent of adults and up to 40 percent of children.
  • Allergic rhinitis, more commonly known as hay fever, can be seasonal or affect people year round.  Seasonal allergies are triggered by pollens from trees, grasses or weeds or airborne mold spores.
  • Immunotherapy (allergy shots) helps reduce hay fever symptoms in about 85 percent of people.
  • Allergies are rarely life-threatening, but if you consider the millions of dollars spent on anti-allergy medications and the cost of lost work or school time, this is no small problem.

What are some tips for managing symptoms?

  • Know your allergy. You may think you know what’s causing your allergy symptoms, but more than two-thirds of spring allergy sufferers actually have year-round allergies. An allergist can perform tests to pinpoint the cause of your symptoms and identify how to treat them.
  • Don’t wait too long to take allergy meds. Don’t wait until symptoms kick in and you’re already suffering. Instead, prepare by taking medication that has worked for you in the past just before the season starts.
  • Steer clear of your allergy triggers. If you have a pollen allergy, make sure you keep your windows shut, take a shower when you come inside and stay indoors during mid-day when pollen counts are highest. These things can improve how you feel.
  • Avoid produce and other foods that might aggravate sniffles and sneezing. If your mouth, lips and throat get itchy and you sniffle and sneeze after eating certain raw or fresh fruits or other foods, you may have “oral allergy syndrome.” The condition, which affects about one third of seasonal allergy sufferers, occurs in people who are already allergic to pollen when their immune system sees a similarity between the proteins of pollen and those of the food, and triggers a reaction. If you are allergic to tree pollen, for example, foods like apples, cherries, pears, apricots, kiwis, oranges, plums, almonds, hazelnut and walnuts may bother you. Cooking or peeling the food may help.

What about allergy shots?

People with moderate to severe symptoms could benefit from immunotherapy or allergy shots.

Immunotherapy for allergies works by exposing the immune system to small amounts of an allergen. Over time and in increasingly larger doses, the body learns not to see it as a foreign invader and develops a tolerance to it. If neither over the counter or prescription medications do the trick, and you’re suffering miserably through spring, fall, or both, then allergy shots may be the answer for you.

  • You can build up effectiveness in a matter of a few months.
  • After properly identifying what you are allergic to through testing different allergies such as trees, grass, weeds, molds, and indoor allergens, the process of desensitization begins. The build-up phase of all allergy shots typically takes about 5 weeks. Two times a week, you visit your allergist’s office for a couple of hours. You get one shot, and then wait, and then get another shot later in the visit.
  • Once a patient has reached the maintenance phase of immunotherapy, then a weekly injection of what you are individually allergic to can be given. Most patients who are comfortable with the injections can then have these administered by a family member at home for convenience.
  • This weekly injection continues for a three to five year time. Studies show that if a patient will put the time into desensitization, the same effect can persist for another three to five years without doing anything.

For those who are nervous about needles, there is an option of desensitization through sublingual drops. A vast majority of patients on immunotherapy are very happy that they chose to pursue treatment.

To learn more about how to better manage your allergy symptoms or for more information, visit yakimaent.com or contact the allergy clinic at Yakima Ear Nose & Throat at 575-1000.

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