Allergies can put people through their own personal hell.
No one enjoys waking up to sneezing fits every 20 minutes, wiping their nose at work and scratching their itchy eyes all day when allergies flare up.
So how do we minimize our reactions as much as possible?
Geisinger-Scenery Park allergist Robert Mentyka, who became a doctor to be similar to the ones that helped him through his allergies as a child, shared a few tips. He has practiced as an allergist for 30 years.
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Q: Why did you become an allergist?
A: The vast majority of patients who are affected by allergic problems are children and young adults in their most productive years.
Allergy and asthma problems are one of the leading causes of school and work absenteeism, affecting quality of life. Effective treatment of allergic problems can often help a child or adult resume their normal daily lives and activities. I find this to be a gratifying endeavor.
Q: This is the time of year seasonal allergies pop up. Why is that?
A: Seasonal allergies are caused by airborne pollens from trees, grasses, flowers and weeds. Spring typically starts the allergy season since trees and grasses are pollinating. Pollens that are spread by windy conditions are usually the main cause of seasonal allergies. However, allergies are also prevalent in late summer or early fall when ragweed is present.
Q: What are symptoms of seasonal allergies?
A: There are a variety of symptoms associated with seasonal allergies with runny nose, sneezing, congestion and itchy, watery eyes being the most common. Some allergy sufferers also experience headaches, wheezing and coughing.
Q: What triggers those symptoms?
A: Allergies can be triggered by exposure to pollen, house dust and even animal dander.
Q: Outside of going to a doctor, can you give a few tips about how to minimize symptoms when you’re in your home and outside?
A: Staying indoors in a climate-controlled environment, especially when pollen counts are high, is the best way to minimize symptoms. If traveling during peak pollen times, between 5 and 10 a.m., keep your car windows up and use air conditioning if needed. Wear sunglasses to help keep pollen out of the eyes. Avoid mowing the lawn or being around freshly cut grass. Finally, machine-dry clothing and bedding instead of hanging it outside to dry as pollen can collect on these items if hung outside to dry.
Q: How does an allergist determine what someone is allergic to and how to treat it?
A: Allergists can determine if someone has seasonal allergies and the types of pollen to which they are allergic by skin testing or a blood test. Allergy skin testing is considered the most sensitive method of testing and it provides rapid results. The prick test, which involves pricking the skin with the extract of specific allergens and observing the skin’s reaction, is the most common.
Q: Do you suggest some people stay indoors if their allergies are severe enough?
A: Staying inside is not always an option for most people who work or who have busy family lives. Taking antihistamines or using a nasal corticosteroid spray may help to relieve allergy symptoms. Allergy shots can also be effective if a patient suffers allergies throughout the year or if they cannot tolerate allergy medications.