Anyone who suffers from allergies knows the frustration of trying to prevent and control symptoms like sneezing, congestion, nasal discharge and eye irritation. Not all triggers can be avoided, so the best plan is to consult a knowledgeable physician for therapy options, according to Dr. Joe Brunworth of SLUCare Otolaryngology West County in Creve Coeur. He says it’s possible to determine which allergens cause the most trouble and design a custom plan to combat them.
First, the patient normally visits an ear, nose and throat doctor to discuss allergy issues. Then, if needed, skin testing can be done at SLUCare offices in Midtown to identify allergens like grass pollen, mold or dust mites. Once the results are in, an appointment can be scheduled to talk about treatment. One option is sublingual immunotherapy, or SLIT, which produces targeted results because it is customized to each patient’s needs, according to Brunworth.
Sublingual immunotherapy patients receive specially formulated drops that are taken under the tongue. The drops are made from the particular components that the patient is allergic to, up to 15 different ones at a time, Brunworth explains. The immune system recognizes the allergens and learns to tolerate them so the body doesn’t react as strongly to future exposures. Once the drops are placed beneath the tongue, the patient holds them there for a few minutes to allow absorption by the mucous membranes. Physical activity can cause them to enter the circulatory system too quickly, so patients are advised not to exercise for two hours afterward.
Brunworth says many patients experience serious allergies heading into the autumn, so late summer is a good time to ask a doctor about therapies like SLIT. Many people still are working in their homes, but they also are seeking outdoor recreation to alleviate cabin fever, so allergens are all around us, he notes.
An experienced physician can suggest other preventive measures in addition to therapy options. “Heavy rain can cause weed overgrowth in the fall, and we are due for another wave of that before temperatures drop,” Brunworth notes. “Other allergens like mold and dust mites can be a problem year-round. To keep mites under control, wash your bed linens in hot water, and store coats and sweaters in plastic sleeves or containers when you’re not using them. Wearing a face mask when cleaning your home or working in the yard is a good idea as well.”
Speaking of masks, Brunworth says the COVID-19 pandemic has produced some interesting crossover effects for allergy patients. “Face-covering mandates have caused people to feel more comfortable with masks in general,” he notes. “Patients also have begun to realize that they offer more than one benefit. Masks can help protect others against the virus, but they also can mitigate your allergy problems, whether you are vacuuming the living room or going outdoors.”
By Julia M. Johnson