Immunologist offers advice to prepare for allergy season

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The dawn of the new season of spring brings blooming flowers, budding trees and even sprouting grass. For millions, it also brings on a season of sneezing, itchy eyes, and nasal congestion.

Experts recommend seasonal allergy sufferers should prepare themselves early to keep symptoms at bay.

Adena Health System immunologist Dana Esham, MD, said if you know you are a yearly allergy sufferer, starting medications before you feel the symptoms can make a difference.

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“Once your symptoms start, it's much harder to get control of those symptoms," she said.

Immunologists prefer to start a treatment regimen by advising patients to avoid triggers. Before prescribing medications, their strategies include using air conditioning as much as possible during summer months and avoiding the outdoors during the so-called peak pollen hours of 5:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m.

Dr. Esham said If lawn care is your responsibility, wear both a mask and goggles.

“The allergen has to get in you in some way, so a lot of people with allergies wear a mask, but they forget their eyes," she said.

For people with severe allergies, immunotherapy is an option. It requires a commitment to seeing a specialist each week for an injection. The number of shots will depend on how many allergens one has. This first phase is essentially a seven-to-eight-month build-up phase. Dr. Esham said her patients move on to a maintenance phase: monthly injections for three-to-five years to build immunity.

Dr. Esham's practice at Adena Regional Medical Center includes an accelerated option called "cluster immunotherapy," where patients come in once or twice a week for multiple sets of allergy shots and are in the office for a longer waiting period.