Allergies got you down? You are not alone
By Nicki Anderson firstname.lastname@example.org October 9, 2012 11:06PM
Dr. Diane Ozog of Naperville agrees that allergy sensitivities have exploded.
Updated: November 11, 2012 6:07AM
Allergy season has been brutal. Many people I’ve talked to agree that this allergy season has been one of the worst. As a kid, I suffered from nut allergies, which was uncommon back then. Today, it seems everyone suffers, in varying degrees, from allergies. Naperville physician Dr. Diane Ozog agrees that allergy sensitivities have exploded.
“Over the last 10-plus years, allergies have been increasing in all ages. However, the number of children with food allergies has been one of the most concerning. Over the last 50 years, the prevalence of allergic diseases has continued to rise worldwide in the industrialized world,” said Ozog, who is board certified in pediatrics, allergy and immunology.
When Ozog initially entered the field, food allergies were relatively uncommon as compared to today. It’s reflective in social environments like schools and preschools as they are forced to adapt to the surplus of children who have been diagnosed with food allergies, with peanut allergies being the most common. Schools are doing their part to stay on top of the concern.
New legislation passed last spring allows EpiPens to be in schools in order for a school nurse to administer (at their discretion) to any child that appears to be having a food allergy reaction, even if they have not been previously diagnosed. Unfortunately, roughly 38 percent of children with food allergies have a history of severe reactions and approximately 30 percent of food allergic children have multiple food allergies.
There are approximately 50 million people in the U.S. with allergies, 25 million with asthma and 8 percent of children (infant to 18 years old) have food allergies. About 70 percent of asthmatics have allergies. Approximately 250,000 people die prematurely each year from asthma. Almost all of these deaths are avoidable.
“Symptoms of allergies are typically nasal congestion, runny nose with clear/watery mucus, itchy eyes/nose/throat, sneezing, postnasal drip and often a cough,” Ozog said. “Certainly any symptom alone can be due to something else, however, when several are occurring at the same time, allergies would be highly suspect.”
You can be pretty sure you’re dealing with allergies if symptoms last for more than two weeks, and present during an allergy season. However, some people may have low grade symptoms throughout the year, which can be attributed to perennial allergies like mold, dust mites or pets.
“If a person has yellow/green mucus, fever, achy muscles, this would be more suggestive of an infection,” Ozog said. “Often, a patient will initially seek help for severe seasonal allergies and only then realize they also have been having low grade symptoms that they have learned to live with (due to the perennial allergens).”
Though I don’t recall my parents suffering with allergies, Ozog noted that children who have one or both parents with allergies and asthma have a greater chance of developing these conditions. However, the following approaches may decrease or delay the onset:
Breast feeding for the first four to six months will strengthen the baby’s immune system and is least likely to trigger an allergic reaction.
Reducing exposure to dust mites by various methods may delay or prevent allergy or asthma symptoms.
Early exposure to cats and dogs may actually protect children from developing allergies and asthma. Research has suggested that children growing up on farms may actually have fewer allergies and asthma.
No exposure to tobacco smoke before or after birth is critical. Exposure to secondhand smoke has been shown to increase the onset of asthma and other chronic respiratory symptoms.
Delay in seeking help for allergies and asthma is common. Typically, patients feel there is no effective way to treat their symptoms, so they live with them. Ozog says that isn’t necessary.
“Once an evaluation is performed and the allergies identified, simple avoidance measures, use of select medications and possibly allergy shots (immunotherapy), can be recommended and provide relief very quickly,” Ozog said.
Although there is no cure for these conditions, immunotherapy is the only treatment that actually decreases the patients sensitivity to specific airborne allergens, therefore reducing the need for medications since the patient’s allergy and asthma is under better control. Don’t forget that asthma can also present itself as a chronic cough (as the only symptom) at all ages.
Ozog reminds us that “it is possible to have an allergy free day!”
For more information visit, The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology at www.aaaai.org.