ST. GEORGE – Summertime is coming to a close and many Southern Utahns are looking forward to cooler weather and the return of shorter days, but for seasonal allergy sufferers thoughts of crisp juicy apples and days spent outside can be less inviting as they quickly bring itchy, watery eyes and wads of white tissues.
But never fear, Dr. Kenneth R. Pinna of Southwest Allergy and Asthma, the only board certified allergy and asthma specialist in Southern Utah, is here to help. Proper preventative measures combined with diagnosis and treatment can see even the worst allergy sufferers feeling better, he said.
Hay fever got you down?
Fall is a bloom season for weeds, Pinna said, and the weeds in this area that are expected to cause symptoms are sagebrush and Russian thistle (tumbleweed). The other major player is alfalfa or hay in agricultural areas.
“So this is hay fever season,” Pinna said, “and as a matter of fact, the original hay fever was described in the textbooks as being a fall allergy caused by ragweed which grows in alfalfa fields; and when it was combined and harvested it would go up into the air and cause allergies.”
While we do have ragweed allergies here – particularly in more rural farm areas such as Enterprise and even Cedar City – Pinna said that most of the allergies will be caused by the sagebrush and tumbleweed.
Sagebrush and tumbleweed are wind pollinating plants meaning they do not a have a flower to attract a pollinating insect so their pollens are spread by the wind and on dry, windy days the pollen can be blown for miles.
This can be particularly detrimental to allergy sufferers as pollens carried on the wind can easily be blown into their yard, onto the hair of their favorite pet or, if the windows of the house are open, straight into their living rooms and bedrooms.
“These plants pollinate in the early morning hours on bright, sunny days,” Pinna said, “and every day in St. George is a bright sunny day.”
Fall allergies, or seasonal allergic rhinitis, can make people sick with symptoms including nasal congestion, nasal drainage, coughing, and itchy eyes, nose, palate, ears and skin; these are the typical allergy sufferers, Pinna said.
If left untreated, nasal congestion and post-nasal drip caused by allergies could lead to more serious sinus infections and even bronchiospasms – an indicator of allergy-induced asthma.
Pinna has laid out a tiered plan for preventing, diagnosing and treating seasonal allergies and associated conditions to help people live a better life and enjoy the fall and beyond.
“You don’t have to live in a bubble to prevent seasonal allergies,” Pinna said, “you just have to incorporate some simple habits to help eliminate exposure to allergens.”
Some of those habits include mowing the lawn with a mask, showering immediately after outdoor activities and keeping your windows shut.
With cooler weather comes the temptation to throw open your windows – which is a big mistake, Pinna said – it can cause pollination of your bedroom. When those windows are open you have now pollinated your living quarters.
Pollens can easily be transmitted by pet hair, Pinna said, so it is important to keep pets out of your bedroom as well.
“Nowadays we have several over-the-counter preparations,” Pinna said, “including antihistamines and, also this year, nasal steroids.”
Nasacort – a steroid based nasal allergy spray – is now available as an over-the-counter remedy for symptoms of hay fever and other upper respiratory allergies.
For most people over-the-counter medications can be effective in controlling at least half of the symptoms, Pinna said, and he recommends a once daily nondrowsy antihistamine such as Claritin as a first line of defense against allergy symptoms.
Why get diagnosed?
If preventative measures and over-the-counter medications have not been effective, or if patients develop more serious symptoms including skin rashes or issues with multiple organs, Pinna said, then they need to see a specialist for proper diagnosis and a detailed treatment plan.
People who have existing allergies to pets or indoor allergens are also encouraged to visit a specialist as they are already primed to have a worse allergy profile.
A specialist can determine, through allergy testing, if the patient is suffering from allergies or if it is a more serious sinus or bronchial problem.
Testing can include chest X-rays, sinus imaging and complete allergy and asthma testing such as skin testing.
“Allergy skin testing is the most accurate form of testing,” Pinna said.
With kids back in school, one of the most difficult diagnostic dilemmas for Pinna, he said, is determining whether a child is suffering from seasonal allergies or a cold, because symptoms are similar and both colds and allergies tend to surface at the same time.
With children, it is especially important to get to the bottom of any wheezing, coughing or deep chest retractions as those are signs of asthma which is closely related to allergies symptomatically but can be extremely dangerous to the point of causing permanent lung damage, Pinna said.
“There are a lot of misconceptions about allergies and asthma,” Pinna said, “false beliefs that can be answered with scientific explanations.”
Allergy testing and diagnosis is a science, one that Pinna has been practicing in Southern Utah for 10 years and always with the mission of helping patients breathe a little easier.
“It is my goal to give evidence based, compassionate, comprehensive care as a specialist to patients who have serious allergies and asthma to help them have an improved quality of life here in Southern Utah,” Pinna said, “with proper diagnosis and treatment patients can live a symptom free life.”
A D V E R T O R I A L
- Southwest Allergy and Asthma | 515 South 300 East, Suite 101, St. George | Telephone 435-688-1128
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