April 2010

By Marianne Canter, April 2010
Member, American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology

Question: Is there a cure?
Answer: No, but a personalized approach to treatment can ease symptoms.

From 2000 to 2005, the cost of treating allergic rhinitis almost doubled from $6.1 billion (in 2005 dollars) to $11.2 billion. More than half of that was spent on prescription medications.

Spring brings green grass, budding flowers and blooming trees—but for millions of people with seasonal allergic rhinitis (hay fever), this seasonal change brings sneezing, runny nose, congestion or an itchy nose, throat, eyes or ears.

These allergic reactions are most commonly caused by pollen and mold spores. Generally, the entire pollen season lasts from February or March through October. Wind-borne pollen from trees is the first on the scene, followed by grasses and then weeds. In warmer places, pollination can be year-round.

The weather can affect the amount of pollen in the air at any time. Allergy symptoms are often less prominent on rainy, cloudy or windless days because pollen does not move around during these conditions.

Molds are tiny fungi related to mushrooms but without stems, roots or leaves. Much like pollen, their spores float in the air. Outdoor mold spores begin to increase as temperatures rise in the spring and reach their peak in July in warmer states and October in the colder states. They are found year-round in the South and on the West Coast.

Some people think that moving to another area of the country, like Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake, Portsmouth and Hampton Roads may lessen their symptoms.

However, many pollen and molds are common to most plant zones in the United States, so moving to escape allergies is not recommended. Also, allergists say because allergic conditions can be genetic, people are likely to find new allergens to react to in new environments.

Treatment
Allergists say millions of work and school days are missed each year due to the misery of allergic rhinitis or the drowsy, dizzy side effects brought on by trying to treat the symptoms with sedating antihistamines.

Although there is no cure, people do not have to choose between their symptoms or the unintended consequences of certain over-the-counter medications. An allergist can successfully diagnose exactly which pollens or molds are causing the symptoms and provide an appropriate treatment plan.

This personalized approach to targeted treatment may include prescribed medications from your allergist. These include: non-sedating antihistamines, antileukotrienes, decongestants, nasal corticosteroids or antihistamines, or eye drops.

If symptoms continue, an allergist may recommend allergy shots, or immunotherapy. This involves receiving regularly scheduled injections, which help the immune system become
more and more resistant to the specific allergen.

According to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), almost 85 percent of people with allergic rhinitis will see their hay fever symptoms, as well as their need for medication, drop significantly within 12 months of immunotherapy treatment.

One of the best measures for controlling rhinitis is to avoid exposure to the allergen causing the symptoms. That means monitoring pollen and mold counts in Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake, Portsmouth, and Hampton Roads.

The National Allergy Bureau (NAB) is the nation’s only pollen and mold counting network certified by the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI). As a free service to the public, the NAB compiles pollen and mold levels from nearly 80 certified stations across the nation. You can find these levels at www.aaaai.org/nab.

If you or your child may be suffering from allergies, please call an allergist at any of our 3 locations listed below. We are here to help you.

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About Allergy & Asthma Specialists
Since 1951 the allergists at Allergy & Asthma Specialists have been successfully treating adults and children in Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake, Portsmouth, and throughout Hampton Roads, where the climate is conducive to allergies and asthma problems. Our allergist is specifically trained to treat Hay Fever, Allergic Rhinitis, Allergic Reactions, Allergies and more.