Worst allergy season ever?
Two allergists’ thoughts on the debate
Wisconsin News Connection and
Star Journal Reporter
Local Ministry Medical Group allergy specialist Shishir Sheth, M.D., said there is a change happening.
“For reasons we do not fully understand, more and more people are suffering from allergies,” Sheth said. “Although there are several theories, one of them suggests that the increased temperature and the increase in greenhouse gases related to global warming might be playing a role in increasing the allergen load.”
For the half-million Wisconsinites with asthma and those who suffer from seasonal allergies, the question is the same every year around this time: how bad will this year be? Milwaukee allergist Gary Stevens, M.D., always answers that question with a tongue-in-cheek response.
“Everybody says this year is the worst they can remember and they say that every year,” Stevens said. “There is no way of predicting that. Tree pollen seasons are actually relatively consistent. Trees are going to pollinate at some point in the spring.”
Their advice to anyone who suffers from asthma or allergies is to get together with an asthma specialist and formulate an asthma-and-allergy plan, which not only identifies triggers but develops a strategy for avoiding exposure to the triggers and insures having appropriate rescue medications on hand to deal with allergy flare-ups.
People with asthma and allergies often follow tried and true methods, like avoiding wooded areas where tree pollens are the highest, using HEPA air filters in their home, and wiping down surfaces with a wet cloth to pick up the pollens. But Dr. Stevens, a member of the Wisconsin Asthma Coalition executive committee, says the real key is knowing your triggers.
“The best strategy isn’t necessarily to avoid those things, but the most important thing is to make sure they’re seeing an asthma specialist, getting the inflammation in the lungs under control so they can tolerate those exposures to irritants just like everybody else does,” Stevens said.
“There are regional variations in the allergens specific to an area. Not surprisingly, the most common spring allergens in the Northwoods are the tree pollens (including the various pines, oaks, ash, birch) and various mold spores,” Sheth said. “Because these allergens are easily airborne, it is difficult to avoid them by avoiding any one particular area.”
School-age children should have their asthma-and-allergy plan on file with their school nurse, so there won’t be questions about having their rescue inhaler available. Dr. Stevens says the available medications for asthma and allergy sufferers are actually very good. He says in the next two to five years a new dimension will be introduced in new drugs.
“They specifically target some of the chemicals that are involved in inflammation in the lungs in people with asthma that will specifically prevent those chemicals from causing the inflammation that they do,” Stevens said.
Online help for people with asthma is available at www.chawisconsin.org/asthma.