Herald Health: Take the suffering out of allergies
Mark Mulligan / The Herald
Louis Spate and Dr. Jennifer Lee, an allergist at The Everett Clinic, have worked to treat Spate's allergies with regular shots.
Mark Mulligan / The Herald Allergy sufferer Louis Spate, left, and Dr. Jennifer Lee, right, have worked together to battle Spate's allergies with regular allergy shots. Photo taken 20130305
Your eyes itch. Your nose runs. You're a pathetic weepy sneeze-bag.
And it's all because of the hanky-panky going on among the trees, grasses and weeds in the throes of pollinating.
That might be good for the planet, but not for some humans.
"There's tree pollen in the spring, then the grass pollen is right behind that," said Dr. Jennifer Lee, Everett Clinic allergist. "This region has a strong pollen season, with big bursts of pollens. Other areas have lower level pollens but are diffused."
Treat allergies before they wreak havoc.
"A lot of people come in the midst of a horrible allergy attack," Lee said. "It's pretty and they want to be outside and people are miserable and it's unfair."
It doesn't have to be that way. You don't have to be trapped inside with allergy angst.
Medications such as pills, eye drops and nose sprays can lessen or alleviate symptoms.
Allergy tests can pinpoint allergies from dust mites, mold, mice, pets and trees.
"Shots can really reduce seasonal allergies," she said. "The power of allergy shots is to desensitize the pollens. Our expectation is to be symptom-free or close to symptom-free."
Allergies can bring additional baggage.
"Pollen patients can get asthma issues: coughs, shortness of breath, chest tightness, wheezing," Lee said.
Sneezing can get out of control.
"Some people have to pull over because they can't see while driving," she said.
Many allergies are year-round affairs. Turning on the furnace distributes mold and mites that have been sitting idle. And then the family gets a kitten for Christmas … only to discover, well, it's you or the cat that needs to go.
The onset of allergies can present at any age and be triggered by environmental factors.
Louis Spate, 69, said he didn't have issues until he moved from California to Salt Lake City in 1982.
"One day my entire face was swollen," he said. "I thought, 'That's weird.' "
An allergy doctor did skin tests.
"I lit up like a Christmas tree," Spate said. "He said, 'You're allergic year round. Shrubs, trees grass, mold, animals.' Mold really turns me on."
He gets a shot every four weeks to keep his allergies at bay. He said his body reminds him when it's time for a shot.
"Near the end, they're trying to talk to me again: Coughing. Nose swelling. My eyes swell shut. Everybody who has allergies knows," he said.
Lee knows. Cats and dust mites are her nemesis.
"Most allergists have allergies," Lee said. "We get interested in the field because of our own diseases."
Close the windows in the car.
Avoid high-wind activities such as biking and boating.
Go camping in August, at the end of the pollen season, not at its height in July.
Outdoor molds are in gutters, soil and wood piles and under fallen leaves. Indoor molds are common in basements and shower stalls and near washing machines and dryers.
Poorly controlled allergies can put you at higher risk for more frequent viral and bacterial respiratory infections.
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