Summer Still a Time for Allergies
Posted July 23, 2012
Writer Jacqui Boyle, StaffWriter
More Americans than ever are suffering from allergies, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. In fact, an estimated 50 million -- one in five -- Americans suffer from all types of allergies, the foundation reported. Dr. G. Anthony Holt, a board certified allergist who runs a private practice in Springfield, said the majority of people who have allergies in general often suffer from specific seasonal allergies, too. Seasonal allergic rhinitis, also called hay fever, affects more than 35 million Americans, said Dr. Jeffrey R. Leipzig, a practitioner at Allergy and Asthma in Hamilton. We asked Leipzig, a fellow of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, what you should know about summer allergies. Q: Spring often most readily comes to mind when people think of allergies. Are allergies a big issue in the summer months, too? A: "Allergies can bother patients throughout the year; however, the combination of high pollen counts, high summer humidity levels, increased airborne mold spores and high pollution levels, all combine to create the perfect conditions to cause significant summer allergy symptoms for many patients." Q: What causes summer allergies? A: "Your immune system mistakenly identifies pollen as foreign invaders, triggering allergic antibodies called Immunoglobulin E (IgE). The antibodies cause the immune system to overreact, which leads to the release of histamine. Histamine then begins the process of common summer allergy symptoms such as [a] runny nose, nasal congestion and itchy eyes." Q: What are some of the worst summer allergy offenders? A: "Grass and weed pollen are the biggest contributors to summer allergy symptoms. Pollens are tiny cells needed to fertilize plants. These culprits cause allergy symptoms. Each plant has a season of pollination. Weather has an effect on the amount of pollen and mold in the air at any time. "One of the most prevalent summer allergy- inducing plants is ragweed, which pollinates in August. Ragweed can travel for hundreds of miles on the wind. A single ragweed plant can produce an estimated 10 million pollen grains daily and more than a billion pollen grains during its life cycle. "Molds also contribute to summer symptoms. Molds are tiny fungi related to mushrooms but without stems, roots or leaves. Their spores float in the air like pollen and need little to grow and thrive. Molds can be found almost anywhere, including soil, plants and rotting wood. 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. "Summer air pollution, most commonly ozone, also adds to symptoms because of its irritant effects on your breathing passages." Q: What are the symptoms of summer allergies? A: "Common symptoms include itching, sneezing, a clear runny nose and post nasal drainage. "Airborne allergens also can trigger asthma, with inflammation and narrowing of the airways, making breathing difficult and leading to coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath." Q: How are summer allergies diagnosed and treated? A: "An allergist can help diagnosis which allergens, if any, are causing your specific symptoms. He or she will take a detailed health history, perform a physical exam and then test you for allergies. Skin tests show the results within 15 to 20 minutes. These results, as well as your specific symptoms, will be considered when developing an allergy treatment plan. Steps to manage your symptoms may include avoiding the allergens you are allergic to, medications and/or allergy shots (immunotherapy)." Q: When is the best time for summer allergy sufferers to see a specialist? A: "If your watery, itchy eyes and runny nose aren't going away and they're interfering with your life, it's probably time to see an allergy specialist to find out what is triggering your summer allergies." Q: What are some tips for managing summer allergies? A: "There are simple avoidance measures to limit your exposure to the pollen or molds that cause your summer allergy symptoms. They are also helpful for spring and fall allergies. - Keep your home windows closed at night, and if possible, use air conditioning, which cleans, cools and dries the air. - Keep your windows closed in the car. - Try to stay indoors when the pollen or mold levels are reported to be high. - Avoid uncut fields. - Don't mow lawns or rake leaves because it stirs up pollen and molds. Also avoid hanging sheets or clothes outside to dry. - Take a shower after coming indoors. This will wash out mold spores in your hair to keep them from bothering you all night long. - Eliminate mold from your home by fixing leaking faucets and pipes and clean mold from walls and basements - Reduce the humidity in your home. - Consider taking a vacation during the height of the pollen season to a more pollen-free area, such as the beach or sea. - Sign up for the National Allergy Bureau email alert to keep tabs on mold and pollen counts in your area." Q: What else should people know about summer allergies? A: " ... Monitor pollen and mold levels found in your area at the National Allergy Bureau or watching your local weather forecast. Visit pollen.aaaai.org from your iPhone, iPad, Black-Berry or Android and add this app to your home screen." Contact this reporter at (937) 225-2122 orJacqueline.Boyle @coxinc.com.
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