“Additionally, due to the buoyant nature of pollen and its airborne spread, ragweed pollen has been measured 400 miles out to sea, and 2 miles up in the air,” says Dr. Bromberg Schneider. “Therefore, one does not need direct contact with a ragweed plant in order to elicit allergy symptoms.”
An estimated 10 to 30 percent of adults, and 40 percent of children, are affected by allergic rhinitis, inflammation of the nose caused by exposure to aeroallergens. Symptoms include sneezing, runny nose, nasal congestion, postnasal drip, itchy and watery eyes, itchy palate, and cough, which can be seasonal when due to pollens and seasonal molds, or year-round when due to dust mite, cockroach, animal dander or storage molds. Individuals can experience discomfort from allergies either intermittently or persistently, and ranging in intensity from mild to moderate to severe. Yet despite such duration and severity of symptoms, only 12 percent of allergy sufferers seek medical attention.
You don't have to sit there and take it
"You don't need to suffer. Allergies are treatable," insists Dr. Bromberg Schneider. She also points out that allergies can be more than just a nuisance. Symptoms of allergic rhinitis can make you miserable; additionally, there are a variety of associated conditions seen with allergic rhinitis, including frequent ear infections; sinus infections; allergic itchy, red eyes; sleep disorders; and asthma, treatment of which must be addressed.
Untreated allergic rhinitis affects quality of life including nocturnal sleep, mood and performance. Allergic individuals have higher absence rates from work or school. They may also suffer from the entity of "presenteeism," being present at work or school, though impaired, less astute and less productive.
What you can do:
Try to identify your allergy triggers
Seasonal aeroallergens and their characteristic seasons are:
• Trees: early spring (March and April)
• Grasses: spring/summer (May and June)
• Ragweed: fall (mid-August until the first frost)
• Seasonal molds (early spring to beyond the first frost)
Seek diagnosis and treatment
An allergist can diagnose allergies as the cause of symptoms through a health history, physical exam, and skin testing to aeroallergens.
Treatment of allergic rhinitis is 3-limbed:
1. Efforts to control/reduce exposure to aeroallergens to which you are allergic.
2. Anti-allergy medications – Oral antihistamines, nasal steroids and/or nasal antihistamines, antileukotrienes (such as Singulair)
3. Immunotherapy – Allergy shots (subcutaneous immunotherapy) or oral immunotherapy (available to limited aeroallergens) are disease modifying, as they reduce allergy severity, maintain persistent benefit after discontinuing them, and reduce the risk of allergic rhinitis progressing to asthma in children.
"When we look at all age groups, allergic conditions are the fifth most common chronic diseases in the U.S.," says Dr. Bromberg Schneider. "It's important to recognize the symptoms and realize we have the power to treat them."
Susan Bromberg Schneider, MD, is an allergist and immunologist with Medical Specialists of St. Luke's. She serves on numerous committees with the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Bromberg Schneider, call 314-205-6600, or visit stlukes-stl.com.
St. Luke’s Hospital’s Hospital is an independent, nonprofit healthcare provider committed to improving the quality of life for its patients and the community. In its 150-year history, St. Luke’s has grown from a single hospital location to an advanced network of care. It provides personalized healthcare services in over 60 specialty areas at its 493-bed hospital in Chesterfield, Missouri, and offers 25 other locations across the greater St. Louis area, bringing quality healthcare services close to home. St. Luke’s is nationally-recognized for quality care and consistently earns high patient satisfaction scores. In addition, St. Luke’s is the exclusive St. Louis affiliate of the nation’s number one heart hospital, Cleveland Clinic’s Sydell and Arnold Miller Family Heart & Vascular Institute. For more information, visit stlukes-stl.com.
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