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Apr 29
Blog: All About Allergy Season

In the early nineteenth century, "hay fever" became the popularized term to identify seasonal allergy symptoms (itchy, watery, or red eyes, runny nose, etc.) due to their perceived connection to the smell of fresh hay. It was actually a coveted diagnosis at the time, because physicians often prescribed a relaxing retreat to coastal regions for a "health holiday" until symptoms improved.

Lorelei Bourla, MD, from Saratoga Hospital Medical Group - Allergy & Clinical Immunology acknowledged in her community seminar on April 22 that the itchy eyes and runny noses did usually improve with extended stays on the coast—but irritation from fresh hay was not causing the problem.

Allergy SeasonIn 1859, Charles Blackley identified pollen as the actual trigger for the cold-like symptoms that currently affect more than 30% of the U.S. population. Although pollen levels tend to vary by region, tree pollens cause all of our allergy-related problems in this area during the spring months, with grass pollens following in the summer.

Dr. Bourla emphasized that a history of symptoms is not necessarily indicative of an allergy, especially since so many people misinterpret their triggers. "Still, it is helpful to know what might be contributing to your symptoms," she said, "because a doctor can make a more targeted recommendation to help you control you environment."

Along with making changes around your home and in your routine, your primary care provider might recommend allergy testing. There are two types:

  • Skin testing. At her office, Dr. Bourla uses a small plastic toothpick to scratch the skin with the allergen in question. If the test comes back positive, you'll develop an itchy hive that looks like a mosquito bite within 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Bloodwork. With a good vein and a practiced phlebotomist, bloodwork for allergy testing usually involves a single needle prick.

There are positives and negatives to both types of testing—you'd have to stop taking antihistamines five to seven days before a skin test, for example—but your physician will help you determine what makes the most sense for you.

Once the allergens have been identified, avoidance is the first step in managing your symptoms. That might mean keeping your windows closed in your house and when you're driving, using central air conditioning, and avoiding hang drying your clothes outside. If you do spend time enjoying the sunshine in the backyard, shower and change clothes when you're finished—and that includes rinsing you hair.

If your symptoms persist, your physician may recommend over the counter or prescription medications, and if necessary, allergy shots. It is important to note that what works for one patient likely will not work for another, and it often takes a combination of steps to achieve long-term relief.

Allergies are incredibly common—and they're also incredibly disruptive. At the height of the season, nasal allergies often lead to increased amounts of sick days, so do not hesitate to seek help to relieve your symptoms. Ask your primary care provider for a referral to Saratoga Hospital Medical Group - Allergy & Clinical Immunology. Or, if you're in need of a primary care physician, please call the Saratoga Hospital Medical Group Patient Concierge at 518-886-5900.


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