Dr. Stan Fineman, allergist and president-elect of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, says it is high time for allergy sufferers due to the pollen count this time of year.
He said problems from respiratory allergies are prevalent. Symptoms include nasal congestion, sneezing, itching of the nose and eyes and sometimes a cough, usually triggered by pollen.
The doctor said in Marietta tree pollen is prevalent in March and grass pollen in April. "Usually, March, April and May are the bad spring season time for pollen allergy sufferers here in Marietta," Dr. Fineman said.
He said the high pollen count in mid-February was unusual. He says as it gets warmer, pollen counts will continue to increase. "People are going to have a greater problem with their symptoms because of a phenomenon called the priming effect," he said.
He says when people are re-exposed to an allergen a few weeks after the first occurrence, they have a more violent allergic reaction. "This is a concern with people with seasonal tree pollen allergies," he said.
The clinic conducts a special allergy skin test using extracts in order to find out what triggers the allergic reaction. Dr. Fineman said, "If somebody is very allergic and their positive to the skin test, and they're having significant symptoms and trouble, then we can start a medication and use the allergy shot."
He said allergy injections are a very effective procedure to help patients build up a tolerance toward the allergen. "When they are re-exposed, they won't have the same symptoms," he said.
Nancy Wilkins of Dallas said the injections have helped her to get her life back. She said she is allergic to "every tree, every grass, three different types of mold, cats, dogs and dust."
At this time of year, "Normally I have watery itchy eyes. I can't breathe," she said. Wilkins also has allergy-induced asthma. "My nose is stuffed up and I can't laugh. I can't talk without coughing," she said.
Wilkins said at one time she was on two inhalers and taking medications and still had severe symptoms. She was referred to the Atlanta Allergy and Asthma Clinic from a friend whose son's allergies cleared up after treatment.
"I thought I may as well try this," Wilkins recalled. "I've tried everything else."
She said her lifelong battle with allergies caused her to develop world allergy syndrome. She was unable to eat food such as watermelon, cantaloupe, nuts, and raw cucumbers.
Wilkins began treatment in 2010. She said when the skin test was conducted on her back, welts rose, indicating certain allergens. Three shots were designed specifically for her.
When she started treatment, Wilkins took two shots per week for five months. It gradually was reduced to one weekly shot, and now she goes in every other week for one shot. She is expected to finish the shots completely within six to eight months.
Wilkins said treatment has helped to her breathe and her symptoms had drastically declined. "Basically, I got my life back," she said. She is also able to eat foods that were once restricted because of her world allergy syndrome.
Wilkins emphasizes the importance of following treatment all the way through. "Don't skip any appointments," she said. "It's important to keep up with the shots or it won't work."
The Atlanta Allergy and Asthma Clinic has been certified by the National Allergy Bureau and is the official pollen reporting station for metro Atlanta.
To see the daily pollen count and to find the closest clinic near you, visit www.atlantaallergy.com.