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Take control of seasonal allergies

Carrie Caruthers, MD

Chronic rhinitis—or seasonal and indoor allergies—is one of the most common illnesses around. According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, 10 to 30 percent of people worldwide are affected by the condition.

However, that’s probably a low estimate. Because these types of allergies are uncomfortable and disruptive, but not life-threatening, many people just accept sneezing and watery eyes as part of life. When spring or summer comes they cope with the symptoms or self-medicate with over-the-counter drugs.

This approach works for mild allergy symptoms. But individuals with moderate and more severe symptoms are likely to find themselves feeling miserable—and missing out. During a typical year, kids miss a collective 2 million schools days, and adults miss 6 million work days due to seasonal allergies, according to a 2017 review published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice. And that doesn’t include the outdoor activities people skip because they are afraid of how they’ll feel.

Lost sleep is another concern. Patients with poorly controlled chronic rhinitis don’t get the rest they need at night. We know that in children this results in a decreased attention span.

As an allergy doctor, one of my goals is to let people know that they don’t just have to put up with allergies. By working with a physician, a patient can receive a treatment plan that allows them to gain control of their symptoms. We can provide:

  • Allergy testing: Testing for indoor allergens (such as dust mites and pets) and outdoor allergens (such as grasses, trees, and weeds) can tell people what their triggers are so that they can better avoid them.
  • Advice on environmental controls: Decreasing exposure to pollen by keeping windows closed, showering at night, and making other lifestyle changes can make a big difference in patients’ comfort.
  • Prescription medications: Certain nasal sprays, pills, and eye drops are available only by prescription and can help with allergy symptoms when over-the-counter options aren’t enough.
  • Allergy shots: Any indoor or outdoor allergen can be included in an allergy shot. By slowly and consistently exposing the body to the allergen, patients can reduce their symptoms.
  • Sublingual immunotherapy: Taking an allergen by tablet form can decrease a patient’s allergy symptoms without getting a needle poke. This type of therapy is available for grass pollens, dust mites, and ragweed.

These therapies can drastically improve patients’ lives. When allergies are under control people really feel the improvement. They’re able to smell again. They aren’t constantly wiping their nose. They’re able to spend more time outdoors. Helping patients get to that point is one of the most satisfying parts of my work. If allergies are making you uncomfortable, I encourage you to make an appointment. Easily schedule an office visit online at: tvc.org/allergy-apt

Dr. Carrie Caruthers is an Allergy, Asthma & Immunology Department specialist at Vancouver Clinic. She cares for patients of all ages, working with them to create an individualized care plan that allows them to function without limitations.