ummer is in the air...and
so are the allergens that
make many allergy sufferers run indoors.
Dr. Luz FonacierÕs patient Kathleen Kelner uses a peak flow meter to measure her breathing capacity during a recent exam. Ms. Kelner says that since she has been under medical care at Winthrop for her allergies and asthma, her quality of life has greatly improved.
Doctors in Winthrop-University Hospital's Division of Rheumatology, Allergy & Immunology are armed with essential information to help patients control their symptoms and live an active, outdoor life.
"One of the most effective ways to prepare the body for allergy
season is to pre-treat the symptoms before the season even begins," stated Luz Fonacier, MD, Head, Section of Allergy at Winthrop. Mark Davis-Lorton, MD, Clinical Immunology Coordinator agrees, saying, "Before the allergy season starts, it is important for people to get their perennial allergies, including dust mites and pet allergies, under control. This way, when the inevitable allergy season gets into full swing, allergies will be more manageable."
While many people are genetically predisposed to allergies, they can be triggered by environmental
factors. In New York, the pollen
season starts in late March and goes through mid-June and weed season goes from July to October, making
it important for allergy sufferers to listen to weather reports for daily pollen and ragweed counts.
"People who are highly allergic to pollen may want to stay indoors
as much as possible on days when pollen counts are elevated. It is also a good idea to use an air conditioner, keeping windows closed and trying to do their outdoor work after a
rainfall when pollen counts are at
their lowest," said Dr. Fonacier.
There are many indoor allergens that can also trigger attacks, including microscopic dust mites and pet
dander. To decrease the potential
for allergy attacks in the home
environment, Dr. Davis-Lorton
recommends covering mattresses,
pillows and box springs with dust mite proof allergy covers and, in extreme cases, carpeting should be removed. It is important to wash bedding in hot water, clean or remove drapes, (which are big dust collectors) and keep animals out of the bedroom. It is also recommended to keep the humidity levels below 40%, as dust mites and molds thrive in humid conditions.
Allergies and Asthma
Chronic allergies can also trigger an existing asthma condition. It is especially important to know the signs of asthma and allergies in young children, so that treatment
can begin to alleviate the symptoms. The first signs of allergies in children are often nasal congestion, runny nose, irritability and loss of attention span and loss of sleep. Parents should also watch for coughing and chronic wheezing in kids, which is often a true indicator of the first
signs of asthma. Both are increasingly aggravated during the high pollen and ragweed months of spring
Effective Allergy Treatments
Current allergy treatments range from over-the-counter antihistamines and prescription allergy medications to allergy shots, allowing people to effectively minimize their attacks, especially during the start of the allergy season.
Dr. Fonacier added, "Last spring, with the pollen counts at a very high level, the people who suffered less were the ones who received allergy shots. Their allergic reactions were much milder in comparison with patients who did not receive treatment before the spring arrived. Allergy shots work very well for
Kathleen Kelner, a long-time allergy and asthma sufferer and patient in Winthrop's Rheumatology, Allergy and Immunology Division for three years, says she has been leading a much better quality of life since she began receiving allergy shots.
"I haven't had a full-blown allergy attack in two years and have been able to reduce my asthma medications by one half. Using the information my doctors give me on how to deal with and improve my condition as well as the personalized care and support I receive have also been very helpful."
Dr. Davis-Lorton stated that not all patients need allergy shots, but those who are highly symptomatic for more than three months out of the year and have poor response to allergy medications, are prime candidates. They are also a positive alternative for those patients who do not want to take oral medications. The purpose of allergy shots is to build an immunity to certain, potent allergens. Low-sedating antihistamines are also good options for children and adults because they have fewer side effects, such as drowsiness, and are effective in controlling most allergy symptoms.
Dr. Davis-Lorton prepares to administer an allergy shot to his patient.
As with any treatment, the goal is to improve the patient's quality of life so they can go out and smell the roses without fear of allergic consequences. For more information on allergies and asthma, call the Division of Rheumatology, Allergy & Immunology at Winthrop at 516-663-2098/2097 or 1-516-663-0333.