While most of us acknowledge the need to see a doctor and take antibiotics for, say, strep throat, many of us attempt to power through when it comes to allergies. Whether we take pride in toughing it out, put off making a doctor's appointment, or simply assume allergies will go away quickly on their own, many of us suffer unnecessarily, a Saint Louis University allergist says.
|Raymond Slavin, M.D.|
"Quality of life illnesses are those disorders that are regarded as unimportant to those who don't have them," said Raymond Slavin, M.D., professor of allergy at SLU and SLUCare allergist. "With ragweed season upon us, it's time to consider the quality of life cost of seasonal allergies.
Around 40 million Americans suffer from allergic rhinitis of some sort, and those who suffer from ragweed allergies may already be noticing symptoms. Ragweed season seems to have started a little later than usual this year, Slavin says, which is a welcome delay. In general, allergists have noted ragweed's lengthening growing season in recent years, a change which experts attribute to global warming.
The effect seasonal allergies have on quality of life often is greater than we recognize. Because symptoms can last for weeks, you may not be aware of just how many days of the year you aren't up to par, feel grumpy, have a fuzzy head or aren't performing at your best, all because of allergy symptoms.
In addition to the discomfort of the symptoms themselves, allergies can lead to sinus infections, middle ear infections, malocclusion of teeth with an increased need for orthodontia, a predisposition to asthma, and more viral infections overall.
"There are no medals for living with allergy symptoms," Slavin said. "Rather than fighting through headaches, runny noses, sore throats and itchy eyes, put your resolve into something productive, like powering through your morning run."
If you take stock and realize your allergy bravado is holding you back from tackling the rest of your life with gusto, consider this four-step plan to directly improve your quality of life.
Step One: Avoid allergens by closing windows, changing air conditioning filters, and limiting outdoor activities. If you feel better, you have a good clue that allergies are at work, rather than a cold or sinus infection.
Step Two: Try over-the-counter medicines like Claritin, Allegra or Zyrtec.
Step Three: If over-the-counter medicines don't do the trick or if you find yourself missing out on outdoor activities, visit an allergist. Prescription nasal sprays containing either steroids or antihistamines may be in order. Your allergist may do a skin prick test to zero in on your precise allergens if the source of your symptoms isn't clear.
Step Four: If you continue to suffer, your allergist may recommend immunotherapy. While the series of shots must be administered over the course of a few years to increase your body's tolerance to the allergen, the good news is that recipients report improvements in symptoms within a few months after beginning treatment.
SLUCare, the physician practice of Saint Louis University School of Medicine, is the only academic medical practice in St. Louis that is fully accredited by the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care Inc. This accreditation is a voluntary process through which the quality of SLUCare services and performance is measured against nationally recognized standards. To schedule an appointment, call 314-977-4440 or 1-866-977-4440. More information is available at www.slucare.edu.