News & Events

Ailing from allergies?

May 22, 2013

By Shannon Harsh, The Review, Published May 22, 2013

If you're one of the unlucky ones who suffers from seasonal allergies, hold on to your Kleenex box.

"This is going to be a bad allergy year," said Starrla Huskins, allergy nurse at the office of Dr. David Kanagy, a member of the Alliance Community Medical Foundation. "Pollens are already high. Usually, you don't get a grass pollen until toward the middle or end of May. We've already had grass in the pollen count."

Huskins, who gathers the pollen and mold counts from the Canton Health Department each day, said the worst time for seasonal allergies is late April through September. She said it begins with tree pollen, then grasses, and by the middle of summer it is the weeds -- especially ragweed -- wreaking havoc.

However, Huskins said allergies can cause trouble throughout the year. "Just about everybody is allergic to molds. When we have the high humid weather and then the rainy weather, we're dealing with molds year-round," she explained.

Huskins said there are many kinds of molds, such as those that grow on vegetation, foods, cereal grains, books and magazines, and even pine trees, which are often brought into homes during the Christmas season.

Some people are more affected by allergies than others. Huskins said those with a weakened immune system are more prone to having allergy problems. "That's why we see a lot of elderly people now who have trouble with allergies, because as they get older, their immune systems become weaker," she explained.

In the same way, she said allergies can affect young children.

So, how do you know if you or your child is affected by seasonal allergies rather than a common cold? Huskins said one of the main ways to tell the difference is that allergies cause clear drainage, whereas colds typically come with green or yellow drainage. Colds may also be accompanied by a fever or sore throat, although post nasal drainage from allergies can cause a sore throat as well.

Other symptoms of seasonal allergies are itchy eyes, sneezing, itchy skin, nasal congestion, nasal swelling and headaches.

"Allergies can actually affect every system in the body, depending upon what kind of allergy you have," Huskins said. "One of the major complaints of allergy patients is fatigue because they can't breathe, so they're not getting enough oxygen in order to feel good."

When it comes to treating allergies, people often rely on over-the-counter medications to deal with symptoms. Huskins said good options include antihistamines, such as Allegra, Zyrtec and Claritin, or the use of nasal sprays and nasal steroids to help reduce the swelling of the nasal passages.

To determine exactly what is causing the misery of their allergy patients, Huskins does intradermal allergy testing and then offers allergy immunotherapy to help patients develop antibodies and ease symptoms. She said the injection program typically lasts three years and involves one year of weekly injections, one year of biweekly injections and one year of monthly injections.

"A lot of patients will stay on (the injections) simply because they feel better with the shots, but the theory is three to five years and you take them off and see if their immune system has developed those antibodies and see how they do," she explained.

Huskins said it is also important to avoid allergy triggers, so she gives her patients the following advice:

Stay indoors as much as possible when allergies are at their worst.

Keep windows closed and air-conditioning on in hot weather.

Get pollen covers for your mattress and pillows to keep the dust mites at bay.

Don't hang clothes outside to dry, as they will bring pollens inside.

If you have a ragweed allergy, avoid eating wheat during ragweed season, as it will aggravate your symptoms.

Huskins stressed that if symptoms get too severe and can't be controlled by over-the-counter medications, you should visit your doctor to see if you might benefit from allergy testing.

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