Fair warning for allergy suffers: There’s no relief in sight, according to Patrick Win, president of the Allergy, Asthma and Immunology Center, which has offices in Shiloh and Maryville.
Allergy seasons have been getting increasingly worse and longer over the past decade, Win said, as a result of milder winters, climate change and higher CO2 concentration.
To complicate matters, spring allergy seasons have been “particularly unusual” over the past several years with the emergence of summer and fall pollens like grass and weed showing up earlier than usual.
“The plants seem to be kind of mixed up. The allergy seasons appear to be expanding,” Win said. “Classically, spring is tree pollen season; summer is grass pollen seasons; and fall is weed pollen season.”
Over-the-counter medicine can help relieve seasonal allergy symptoms for the vast majority of patients, according to Win.
“If patients are fine with their symptom control on over-the-count medications, then seeing an allergist isn’t critical,” he said.
However, patients who have side effects from the medicine or suffer from allergies throughout the year may want to consult an allergist.
Win said the goal of an allergist is to determine a cause for the symptoms and what allergens if any may be affecting the patient.
Allergen immunotherapy can work for both adults and children, Win said.
“It really changes the way the immune system interacts with the environment and may prevent further allergies from developing,” he said. “If we can keep kids from developing worsening allergies or asthma, that’s a huge service to provide our patients.”
Win said he’s seen patients as young as 6 weeks old. However, he typically sees children who are 4 or 5 years old as it may take several allergy seasons for allergies to develop.
He advised anyone who may think they suffer from severe allergies to contact their primary care doctor or see an allergist for further testing.
“Knowledge is power,” he said.
Allergy symptoms vary depending on the individual, but may include itchy eyes, red and swollen eyes, a traverse nasal crease (a white line between the upper two-thirds and the lower third of the human nose), allergic shiners (dark circles under the eyes), sneezing, coughing and chest congestion.
“Allergies are a chronic illness that lasts for weeks or months at a time,” Win said. “The duration of symptoms greatly help to distinguish allergy from typical respiratory tract infections which typically last for one-to-two weeks.”
According to the website Accuweather.com, tree pollen is currently high for the Belleville area, but grass pollen and ragweed pollen levels are low.
Most insurance providers cover allergists and don’t require a direct referral, which the exception of Tricare, the insurance provider for military members.
Win said the Allergy, Asthma and Immunology Center also works with uninsured patients.
“Unfortunately, we are going in the wrong direction,” he said. “Allergies are getting more and more common. The human bodies are going to continue to have allergic reactions, and climate change is adding insult to injury.”