Allergies on the increase
About 50 million people in the United States have some type of allergy, and they are heading into one of the seasons when allergy symptoms are at their worst. That's because some of the most common allergens - pollens, molds and insects — flourish in the spring, summer and fall. MetroHealth's state-of-the-art Allergy & Immunology Clinic has staff specially trained to diagnose and treat all types of allergies and immune system problems.
"Everybody thinks allergies are not a big deal. But you have to have a holistic approach to them from the bottom up. We have to educate people," says Akhilesh Chouksey, MD, Director of the clinic. "Allergy testing is not performed often enough." The result: People aren't getting symptom relief because they aren't getting the right diagnosis and treatment. This can result in years of discomfort and unnecessary suffering.
Allergies are on the rise, and there are a number of theories as to why, says Dr. Chouksey. One is the hygiene theory. "Exposure to natural patohogens and bacteria has been significantly reduced due to improved sewer disposal, household and work place sanitation and cleanliness in general — especially in the Western world," explains Dr. Chouksey. "This leads to less work for the immune system, which ends up having 'excess capacity' and in turn uses that capacity to react to other things, including allergens.
"We are observing an increase in all kinds of allergies like food allergies, environmental allergies and bee sting allergy. Although people tend to outgrow food allergies, environmental allergies get worse with age. The more the body sees the allergen, the more of a reaction it will cause," says Dr. Chouksey.
Drs. Chouksey and Kumar Swamy, MD, along with their dedicated team members, treated about 4,500 patients in the Allergy & Immunology Clinic last year. While the clinic is housed within the MetroHealth Department of Pediatrics, Dr. Chouksey says half of the patients coming to the clinic are adults. Metrohealth's Allergy & Immunology Clinic is a "one-stop shop for the whole family, and we love to establish relationships with the entire family,'' says Dr. Chouskey, noting that allergies are commonly passed down from generation to generation.
To provide easy access to patients, Drs. Chouksey and Swamy also see patients at MetroHealth Buckeye Health Center and MetroHealth Strongsville Health Center.
Allergies can cause red, watery and itchy eyes, as well as irritating nasal congestion, sneezing and throat clearing. Other symptoms include mouth breathing, snoring, dry and scratchy throat, reduced ability to smell, headaches, bad breath, nose bleeds and irritating and annoying cough. Many patients also suffer from recurrent episodes of sinus congestion, headaches and even sinusitis during a particular time of the year. Because many of these symptoms impact sleep patterns, people with untreated allergies can be more tired and cranky and less productive at work and school. This adverse impact on the overall quality of life, as well as productivity, is grossly underestimated, says Dr. Chouksey.
"And if you have asthma which is particularly bad during a specific time of the year, allergies may be triggering your asthma," says Dr. Chouksey.
Allergy testing methods include:
- Skin prick test, which is done by placing a drop of a solution containing a possible allergen on the skin, followed by a micropuncture in the skin.
- Intradermal test, which is done by injecting a small amount of the allergen into the skin.
- Skin multitest, which involves placing small amounts of multiple allergens in a specific pattern on the patient.