Combatting Allergies

LIN_sandra (2)Does it feel like every season is allergy season? Does just the thought of pollen make you sneeze? Sandra Lin, associate professor of otolaryngology-head and neck surgery, gives her expert advice on ways to treat seasonal allergies and her thoughts on what’s next in terms of treating asthma and allergies alike. 

1. What is the worst season for seasonal allergy sufferers?

The worst seasons for a person depends on what that individual is allergic to. However, in my practice, most patients say their worst symptoms are in the spring and fall. These seasons are the worst because of tree pollen and weed allergies, which are common in this part of the country and provoke severe symptoms in many patients.

2. Is it true that the allergy season is lasting longer thanks to the warming trend in our environment?

Some studies link climate change to increasing pollen levels. In addition, some studies suggest greenhouse gases, like carbon dioxide and ozone, can increase allergic response.

3. What are the most effective ways to treat seasonal allergies?

Allergies are treated with avoidance of the allergen and medications. For those that have symptoms despite these treatments, sublingual immunotherapy is an option.

4. Can you talk a little bit more about sublingual immunotherapy?

Immunotherapy treats the cause of allergies by giving small doses of what a person is allergic to, which increases “immunity” or tolerance to the allergen and reduces the allergic symptoms. Unlike injection immunotherapy, which is given as shots in a doctor’s office, sublingual immunotherapy is given at home as drops or tablets under the tongue.

5. Do you have any natural remedies that you suggest?

Saline washes of the nose are helpful in washing out allergens, and many of my patients find them to be helpful.

6. What are your thoughts about the new study that suggests that exposing newborns to more dirt and germs lowers allergy and asthma risk?

This is referred to as the hygiene hypothesis. That is the scientific name for the theory that not enough early exposure to allergens and germs increases chances of allergies and asthma. It’s an interesting idea, but this idea needs more study before we can say that it has been proven.

7. Can you allergy-proof your home?

Allergy-proofing should be directed toward the allergens you are sensitive to.  Allergy testing can be helpful in this regard. If you are allergic to outdoor allergens such as pollen, keeping the windows closed and running the air conditioning can be helpful.  For pet allergies, keeping the pet out of the bedroom and washing the pet frequently can help.  For those with dust mite allergies, HEPA filters, mattress covers and washing bedding can help.

8. What do you think the next important research around allergies and asthma will be?

The next important studies, in my opinion, will focus on how we can prevent allergies and asthma. Some studies have shown the immunotherapy can prevent the development of allergic asthma; if we can identify those children at high risk at a young age, we may be able to really impact their lives by preventing the development of asthma and new allergies.

9. Is there anything else you’d like to add that you think our employees should know?

If you have nasal symptoms that aren’t well controlled with simple treatments, seeing a specialist such as an otolaryngologist (ear, nose, throat) is very important.  It could be allergies sinusitis, or another condition that can be helped by a professional.

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