by Dr. Jennifer Caicedo, M.D., Carolina Asthma & Allergy Center
Spring in the Carolinas arrives with glorious color: brilliant blue skies, golden sunshine, dogwoods in full pink and white bloom, green leaves aplenty. The vibrancy of renewal and the pleasant sunny days make this the favorite season of many in our region. But, for many of us, Spring also brings the unwelcome sounds of sneezing and coughing, and a suffocating sensation in our heads and noses.
Many of us have either experienced it ourselves or have watched our children suffer through it. For me, it is both. Even before the calendar hit March 20th, I heard my daughter sneezing and noticed her eyes watering, as I battled congestion and cough. And you may have noticed another Spring sight — that familiar yellow-green dusting that adorns our windows and cars — pollen.
Yes, Spring has arrived here in the Carolinas, and with it the beginning of our allergy season. In 2011, Charlotte was ranked the 3rd worst city for allergies in the U.S., and we are expecting a similar ranking in 2012. Pollen is one of the most common causes of seasonal allergies, otherwise known as “hayfever.”
So, what is hayfever? It’s a condition which results from an overreaction of the immune system to airborne particles called allergens. The most common indoor/outdoor allergens are tree, grass, and weed pollen, mold spores, dust mite, and cat and dog dander. Hayfever affects over 40 million people in the U.S. It is the 5th leading chronic disease among all ages and the 3rd most common chronic disease among children. Allergies limit activities in 40% of children who suffer from them, and result in 4 million missed or lost work days each year.
Allergies have a genetic component. For example, if one parent has allergies of any type, the chances are 1 in 3 that each child will have an allergy. If both parents have allergies, this risk increases to 7 in 10.
What are the symptoms of seasonal allergies?
– watery and/or itchy eyes
– runny and/or itchy nose
– dark circles under the eyes
– nasal congestion (difficulty breathing through the nose)
– respiratory symptoms including coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness
– skin symptoms including eczema, contact rashes, hives
– conjunctivitis (inflammation of the eyes)
– ear infections
– headache, facial pain
– sinus infections
Some people suffer from all or most of these symptoms; some may only suffer from a few. In either case, it’s important to know that there is help available for allergy sufferers!
If you think that you or a family member may be suffering from allergies, consultation with Board-Certified Allergist in your area can provide relief! A board-certified allergist has completed four years of medical school, a residency program in either pediatrics or internal medicine and a 2-3 year fellowship in Allergy and Immunology. They can perform and interpret allergy testing to find out which allergens are causing your symptoms. From there, they will work with you to come up with a personalized treatment plan for your allergies.
So, this Spring, enjoy the sights and sunshine. Allergy sufferers, you don’t have to suffer in silence and stay cooped up indoors – there are safe and effective treatments to help you breathe easier. You can find a listing of Board-Certified Allergists in your area at www.abai.org.
A graduate of the University of Florida College of Medicine, Dr. Jennifer Caicedo is a diplomate of the American Board of Allergy and Immunology and is also certified in general pediatrics by the American Board of Pediatrics. Serving the Charlotte area since 1952, Carolina Asthma & Allergy Center is the area’s only asthma and allergy practice made up entirely of Board Certified physicians.