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Don't let seasonal allergies slow you down

Community news | Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Contact: John Broom

As many as 1-in-4 Americans are affected by seasonal allergies. These are allergies that come and go as the seasons change. People can also be allergic to pets, food, cosmetics, drugs, dyes, and bee sting.

Ashtabula County Medical Center Allergist/Immunologist Akhil Chouksey, MD, said, "You can tell you have a seasonal allergy by the time of year you experience the symptoms. In the spring it is a pollen allergy, in the summer it is grass, and in the fall it is mold." Majority of patients usually are allergic to several allergens and therefore have symptoms for longer duration of times, even thru-out the year.

What we are allergic to is known as an allergen. The body fights them by releasing chemicals such as histamine.

Symptoms of an allergy include:

  • Nasal congestion, bouts of sneezing or drainage
  • Redness, itchiness and swelling of the eyes.
  • Skin rashes and swelling
  • Recurrent sinusitis
  • Frequent headaches
  • General tiredness and lack of concentration
  • Shortness of breath or wheezing.
  • Low-grade fever

"These symptoms can be subtle, but we know that even with mild symptoms productivity in children at school and adults at work can be affected," Dr. Chouksey said.

Allergy symptoms can keep you from enjoying the outdoors, or even trigger asthma—a serious lung disease that causes wheezing and shortness of breath.

"You are never too young or old to be tested for an allergy. This is especially important for young children and older adults. If a senior citizen has recurrent bouts of chest problems they also may have coexisting allergies or immune problems contributing to it and they need to be tested," he said.

Dr. Chouksey said if the allergy symptoms are severely affecting your quality of life, there are treatment options that include over-the-counter allergy medication or injections.

"Allergen Avoidance is the gold standard of the treatment however one can only avoid allergens present inside the house such as pets, dust and mold. When we have a seasonal allergy, we cannot avoid or change nature. Yes, if we know allergens are stronger in the morning, we can wait until later in the day to go outside, but we cannot avoid it all together. That is when we must consider medical treatment," he said.

Over-the-counter medication or prescribed drugs can both help fight the allergen and lessen the symptoms we experience. For those who do not want to take medication, there are allergy injections which help your body adapt to the allergens. This is known as immunotherapy.

"We determine what you are allergic to, and then begin a treatment of injections to fight that specific allergen. It can take a year or two to build up immunity, but they are about 70 % effective," Dr. Chouksey said.

Other suggestions for minimizing seasonal allergies include:

  • Use air conditioning—it cleans, cools and dries the air. Keeps dust mite low in the home.
  • Keep your windows closed at night, so your bedroom does not become an extension of your yard.
  • Stay indoors when the pollen level is high.
  • Dr. Chouksey is a Fellow of The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. He is currently welcoming new patients from Ashtabula, Lake and Geauga counties. Schedule an appointment by calling 440-997-6969.