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More seek help as allergies worsen in long season

LPN Megan Antunez gives a an allergy shot to Palmer King, 10, during an office visit to the Atlanta Allergy Clinic in Atlanta, Georgia, Monday, September 10, 2012. Doctors say the high pollen count has allergy set off a rash of coughs and sniffles in metro Atlanta. (Kent D.Johnson/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/MCT)

LPN Megan Antunez gives a an allergy shot to Palmer King, 10, during an office visit to the Atlanta Allergy Clinic in Atlanta, Georgia, Monday, September 10, 2012. Doctors say the high pollen count has allergy set off a rash of coughs and sniffles in metro Atlanta. (Kent D.Johnson/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/MCT) Purchase photo reprints »

The fall allergy season has begun. Already.

If that miserable little fact surprises you, Marie Inserra has the symptoms to prove it. And so does her daughter, 9-year-old Petrina.

“It’s really bad,” Inserra said, “We have them year round.”

While coughing, sniffling and sneezing may not be anything new to Inserra and her daughter, doctors say the fall allergy season arrived earlier than usual this year and produced higher than normal pollen counts for the year. What’s more, they say, based on previous years, the allergy season promises to be longer and more pronounced.

“The pollen levels are in the high range for ragweed and moderate range for grass pollen,” said Dr. David Tanner, medical director for the Atlanta Allergy and Asthma Clinic.

The spring season, he said, was particularly hard on his patients and the fall season is already running a close second.

Tanner said ragweed sent patients scurrying as early as the third week in August and will most likely continue over the next two to three weeks.

Although ragweed appears to be the major culprit, Tanner said other potential triggers include dust mites, animal dander and mold.

“If people are having problems they should see an allergist to determine what’s the specific cause,” he said.

Dr. Dean Firschein, with Allergy Partners of Georgia and secretary of the Allergy, Asthma and Immunology Society of Georgia, said that his office has been seeing more patients in the spring and fall, in addition to a steady stream of new patients throughout the summer.

It used to be, he said, that the allergy season presented in the spring and fall.

“Now I’m seeing patients in the spring, summer and fall season,” he said. “It’s been this way for the past few years.” That’s certainly has been true for Inserra and her daughter Petrina.

“Sometimes they’re worse than others, but we pretty much have them year round,” the East Cobb mother said.

Before moving to metro Atlanta 14 years ago, Inserra said she was often told, “If you don’t have allergies you will get them when you move here.” Inserra said she is bothered year-round with allergies; she’s allergic to seemingly everything and must get two injections, twice a week, just to function.

Navin Dadlani of Atlanta said he suffers from seasonal allergies but gets a shot once a week “so I don’t have problems later in the year.” He and his son, 7-year-old Ashton, who has a peanut allergy, were at their doctor’s office on Monday for shots.

“Killing two birds with one stone,” Dadlani said.

Firschein attributed the longer season to the warming trend and air pollution and increasing numbers of patients looking for answers to what ails them.

In all, Firschein said his practice, Allergy Partners, has seen a 10 percent jump in new patients and a 25 percent increase in patients who want allergy shots.

Tanner said he’s seen a 20 percent jump in the number of patients suffering from fall allergies.

“We call them allergy sufferers for a reason,” Firschein said. “They’re suffering from lifestyle changes. They can’t concentrate or sleep. It’s more than just your nose or eyes. It’s the whole body.”

Managing allergies

Experts suggest several strategies:

∎ Check the pollen count, usually available online with a local allergist such as allergyinatlanta.com

∎ Know what you are allergic to and avoid these things. Pollen counts are highest in the morning, so switching your activities to the afternoon can help.

∎ Change your clothes and take a shower or bath to avoid bringing pollen into your home environment.

∎ Change your air filters on your HVAC system regularly in the spring and fall.

∎ Take your medications several days or weeks before your symptoms usually occur. Oral antihistamines can help quickly, but most nasal sprays take time and should be started a week or two before your worst season.

∎ Avoid complications and seek a doctor’s care. Allergies can affect your school or work performance by interfering with sleep and causing fatigue. They also contribute to sinus infections and asthma. If you are suffering from allergy symptoms despite trying these tips and medication, contact your physician or a board certified allergist.

Effective allergy treatments are available at your local allergist.

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