allergies, Annapolis Allergy & Asthma
Written by chrissy

Allergies don’t Hibernate

Brrr. Winter has arrived. 2019 brought chilly temps, the worst in years. Colds, viruses and the flu came with it. Sneezing? Sniffling? Probably sick, right? But wait. There’s no fever. You don’t feel sick. And you’ve been congested for a long time. Think again. Naturally, we’re indoors much more of the time these days. And although this increases exposure to viruses, it also means heavier exposure to indoor allergens. Repetitive sneezing and persistent congestion likely is a sign of allergies, or more precisely, allergic rhinitis, the term for nasal allergies.

We all are familiar with windborne pollinating plants releasing pollen during certain times of the year, causing seasonal allergic rhinitis, responsible for the sneezing in parking lots, on athletic fields and during lawn sales. First, it’s the blooming of trees in the spring, then grass going to seed. There’s a brief lull during the heat of the summer, followed by fall weed pollen, until the first frost when these plants become dormant.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t allergies in the winter; they’re just not seasonal. Mold, dust mites, cockroaches and furry pets are here all the time. We’re exposed to these potential sources of allergies every day, making their effect less noticeable. They are sneaky, creeping up on us more slowly, making those with allergies just as miserable. This is why testing for allergies is essential.

Why wouldn’t I know if I have indoor allergies? One reason is the difference in chemistry between intermittent versus daily exposure. Think of the sudden, brief exposure to a dog at a piano teacher’s house versus living at home with a dog. Occasional exposure to an allergen leads to an abrupt release of histamine from mast cells. This causes immediate itching, sneezing, tearing, runny nose, swelling within minutes. Sustained, daily exposure, day in, day out, leads to chronic inflammation over time from leukotrienes, chemokines, interleukins, and other mediators, whose effects occur more slowly over hours and days. There’s less of an obvious histamine response, leading to chronic swelling and inflammation. (That’s also why antihistamines can only do so much, but leave that for another post.)

Reducing allergen exposure isn’t so simple, either. Removing perennial allergens can be difficult. Identify, then remediate mold in basements and damp areas. Repair leaks or moisture may again trigger mold spore following snow melts or with heavy spring rains. Eliminate pests (e.g., roaches). Dust mites cannot survive in air ducts, but prefer bedding and linens, snuggling up to a warm body that also provides their food: sloughed dead skin scales. Wash linens regularly to minimize exposure.

Other allergens may prove more difficult to remove; whether Max is shoved off the bed (again), or Fluffy, the beloved furball simply turns her nose up and moves on to the kitchen, they all leave a trail behind. Tears, saliva, urine skin sweat glands of animals from all contain allergens that stick on surfaces. Several cat allergy proteins, including Fel d 1, actually remain airborne 15-20 minutes after the cat leaves the room. Carpeting, upholstery, draperies, blankets, and pillows act as reservoirs, absorbing allergy proteins. Airborne cat protein even sticks to painted surfaces. Litter boxes, gerbil and hamster cages all are sources of allergens.

Dry winter conditions also exacerbate non-allergic rhinitis. Nostrils act as filters, collecting fine dust particles. Fireplaces and pellet stoves can emit smoke and fine particles, recycling throughout the house through forced air heating. Adding moisture with a humidifier may reduce this, and certainly helps irritated mucous membranes, but be vigilant for mold growth in the base of the humidifier.

Contact us at Annapolis Allergy & Asthma for evaluation and treatment of perennial or seasonal allergens; let us help you enjoy life more fully!

Copyright Duane Gels 2019

Updated 5/19/20

We remain open and here to serve you during the COVID-19 emergency. We are also committed to the safety of our patients and staff. Thus, our providers, Dr. Gels and Uwe Reichmann PA, have been diagnosing and treating all patients, whether new or return patients via telehealth. Use your phone, laptop, tablet or desktop. We have also been busy answering phone messages, emails and faxes to our office. 

Testing: We are pleased to announce that we will begin skin testing in the office as of 5/25/20. Patients will first be screened by a telehealth visit with one of our providers to decide the extent of testing. This will be then followed by an in-office visit for the testing, done via sterile technique. To minimize your time in the office, a follow up telehealth visit with the provider will be scheduled to review your results in detail.

Injections: We are now giving allergy shots BY APPOINTMENT ONLY, for your safety. Please come directly up to our office on time so that no one waits before their injection (call ONLY if late). If you haven’t had an allergy shot for a while, you will be scheduled to see Uwe to determine your dose the day of your shot. Patients are then observed for reactions in isolated rooms, then exit the back doorway. We are making allergy serum if you need it. Call us the day before to address insurance, payments, etc. to streamline your visit. We request you keep a credit card on file to streamline the process. Those on immune therapy will continue their treatments (Xolair, Fasenra, Nucala, Dupixent).

Office Policy: We follow CDC and specialty guidelines. Please, only ONE person in the office at a time, and one adult per minor. All patients (and staff) are being screened for illness (fever, etc.) and exposure to COVID. All staff and patients are required to wear a mask (school aged and above). Please bring a personal mask from home: due to the shortage, we cannot routinely provide patients with masks.  NO MASK, NO SHOT.  If you have asthma, bring your albuterol inhaler with you. 

This is allergy season! Pollen is now peaking for many trees. If you have allergy symptoms, we are here for you! We can diagnose and treat over video and send prescriptions to your pharmacy electronically.

Contact us via phone (410-573-1600) or on the portal on this webpage to see our providers. Let us make an appointment when it is convenient for you.

Annapolis Allergy & Asthma, LLC