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Allergies in Philly Are Bad This Time of Year. Here’s How to Beat Them

Despite the warm spring welcome the month of May brings, there’s a catch for many Philadelphians. On every city block and in every suburb, people of all ages are waking up with itchy eyes and stuffy noses. It’s the season of beautiful blooms, budding trees, and fresh-cut grass—in other words, it’s the season of allergies. If only there was a way to fight them off and enjoy the season without the sniffles.

According to Philly experts, many of whom have allergies of their own, there is a way to fight allergy season—in fact, there are several. These board-certified allergists know which local allergens are likely to cause those unwanted symptoms, and they can help Philadelphians get real relief with their expert medical care. Here are some of those solutions you might consider before you step outside into the rejuvenating—and pollen-infested—spring air.

Allergy Skin Testing

Where to begin? Finding out what your specific irritants are is what Dr. Matthew Fogg of Philly’s Allergy & Asthma Specialists recommends. He says many Philadelphians, both in the city and outside the city, will likely be suffering from tree and grass pollen allergies during the spring months. But testing is the only way to be sure.

“​​The best way to determine your allergies is to consult with a board-certified allergist who can get a detailed history, administer an exam and order appropriate testing to determine your specific allergies,” he says. Most often a skin test will provide the information we need. It’s a simple, quick, needle-free test.

However, not just any test will do: “I would warn people to avoid services that advertise testing and treating without a doctor visit,” Dr. Fogg. When in doubt, he says, opt for personalized, expert care. That way, the expert, like Dr. Fogg, will be able to aptly read and interpret the testing and suggest the proper treatment.

During an allergy skin test, a nurse will place a range of different allergens—in very small amounts—to test your body’s reaction to them. This type of testing is pain-free and non-invasive, and anyone can undergo it. “The great thing about being a board-certified allergist is that I see patients of all ages and all walks of life,” says Dr. Fogg. Plus, he adds, skin testing is almost always covered by insurance.

Allergy Shots

Once you’ve learned your allergy triggers, the next step is to develop a treatment plan. “​​I think that often, patients needlessly suffer going from one over-the-counter medication to another,” Dr. Fogg says. Over-the-counter medication are merely band-aids. He says immunotherapy may be your real key to finding lasting relief because it changes how your immune system responds to the allergens.

Traditional immunotherapy, more commonly referred to as “allergy shots,” is a long-term allergy treatment that mitigates symptoms. “Immunotherapy is the most underused treatment that can help provide prolonged symptom relief and reduction in the need for medication for allergies,” he says. According to Dr. Fogg, most people are completely desensitized to those allergens after just three to five years. 

Allergy shots are derived from the specific patient’s skin test, so they are specially made just for that one person. Gradually, the allergist will inject small amounts of your specific allergens, so your body slowly stops to see that allergen as an offender. Experts, like Dr. Fogg, say it’s important to stay on schedule with these shots—the process requires regular visits to the allergist so that you can build up your tolerance over time.

Sublingual Immunotherapy

A needle-free immunotherapy option, sublingual immunotherapy works similarly to traditional immunotherapy shots to build your tolerance to allergens. Sublingual immunotherapy can be taken via tablet or drops, and the treatment goes under the tongue.  Plus, it can be taken at home as opposed to visiting the office for shots and other treatments.

“Just yesterday, in the middle of allergy season, I saw a 14-year-old who previously needed five medications to get through his spring allergy and asthma season,” he says. “This year, after one year of sublingual immunotherapy, he is only taking one Allegra a day and has no symptoms.” He is now free to play baseball without the discomfort he experienced in the past.

Knowing what you are allergic to is the first step to fighting off allergy symptoms. The board-certified allergists at Allergy & Asthma Specialists provide comprehensive allergy and asthma diagnostics and treatment for patients at eight locations throughout the Philadelphia area. Schedule today online at allergyphilly.com or call 1-800-86COUGH.