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Live Healthy, Atlanta! Thought Leader

Spring is Here, and So Are Allergies

By David Martin, President and CEO of VeinInnovations

Temperatures are climbing as the weather begins to reflect what the calendar declared in mid-March – it’s spring! Along with azaleas come allergies, and this year experts anticipate a harsher than usual allergy season. Thank the infamous polar vortex. Winter weather has continued on longer than normal, setting the stage for a sudden, shortened spring. If trees have to make up for lost time and a shorter spring, pines, oaks, and maples eager to reproduce will release higher than average amounts of pollen.

A quick Google search for “2014 allergy season” will show headline after headline decrying this year to be the “worst ever”. Take those headlines with a grain of salt. The same headlines appear when you Google “2013 allergy season”. Still, it’s good to be prepared. The side effects of allergies to mold, pollen and grasses are certainly miserable. We’re all familiar with the sneezing, itching, and stuffed and runny nose that accompanies the burst of plant growth and reproduction each year. If you’re worried about this year and anticipate an extreme (or just annoying) bout with allergies, start taking your allergy medication now.

Allergy Tests

Many common allergies are easily diagnosed and treated by over-the-counter medication. The majority of us know when the pollen count or ragweed is the cause of mild allergic reactions. Mild allergic reactions include hives, itching, watery eyes, runny nose, nasal congestion or a rash. If you treat your symptoms with over the counter medicine and it has no effect, it may be time to contact your doctor. A variety of tests are available to help determine your specific allergies, from dust mites to pet dander.

The most common allergy tests are the scratch test and the patch test. The scratch test is administered in a doctor’s office – one of the (very) rare risks of the test is an extreme allergic reaction, so the staff will want to keep you close to appropriate emergency equipment and medications. The scratch test is simple. A numbered grid is drawn on your inner arm or upper back, then extracts of common allergens are placed on your skin. A tiny needle is used to prick the skin, scratching it into the surface of the skin. The procedure sounds painful, but it isn’t. The needles used are so small, and the prick so tiny, you barely feel it. If you are allergic to a specific allergen, a red wheal (a bump that resembles a mosquito bite) will form.

The patch test is used to determine if a particular substance is causing skin irritation. Patch tests are used to determine your reaction to things such as latex, metals, hair dye or fragrances. The test’s name is its best description. Allergens are placed on patches, then placed on your skin for about 48 hours. Irritated skin at the end of the test indicates a potential allergy.

Every family has an at home remedy favorite. For some, spicy food is the ticket to clear nasal passages. For others, it’s breathing in the steam from a bowl of hot water mixed with horseradish. Your best bet is over-the-counter medication, although spicy food can help if you’ve got the constitution for it!

Update: HB 885 (legalizing limited use of medical marijuana in Georgia) failed last month. The bill’s supporters point to a last minute addition of an unrelated autism mandate. You can read about that issue here and here.

I wrote about the bill, named Haleigh’s Hope, and the bill’s namesake, Haleigh Cox, last month. Since then, Haleigh and her mother have moved to Colorado, where Haleigh has been able to use the cannabidiol oil (CBD) she needs. According to her mother’s Facebook page, the medicine is already helping Haleigh. You can follow their story here.


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