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Chattanooga Allergy Clinic battles spring blossoms

Thursday, March 14, 2013
Dr. Marc Cromie treats a young patient for allergies.
Dr. Marc Cromie treats a young patient for allergies.

Birds are singing, bees are buzzing and the beautiful white blossoms of the Bradford pears are beginning to bloom, which can only mean one thing: spring allergies are just around the corner.

While those signature blossoms of the Scenic City do signal the start of spring and the allergies that come with it, Dr. Marc W. Cromie, M.D., with Chattanooga Allergy Clinic said they often take the blame for all the sneezes and sniffles when they should not.

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    Dr. Marc Cromie says the start of spring is also the beginning of allergy season.

“[Bradford pears] are not an allergenic species of tree,” he said. “However, when you start to see those white blooms, that is the first sign that other trees that do cause problems, like maple, hickory and oak, are pollinating.”

The pollen from the problematic trees is microscopic and floats through air. When it’s inhaled, people get sick and start to suffer.

Hands down, pollen is the biggest allergen people face during the spring in Chattanooga. Cromie said the city typically ranks among the top fi ve in the nation for highest pollen counts during the pollen season that begins in March, peaks in April and doesn’t come to an end until late May or early June when grass season kicks in.

“We’ve seen counts here as high as 10,000, but anything above 120 is considered high,” Cromie said. “Everyone is miserable this time of year, and the more you are exposed to pollen the more symptoms you will have.

Itchy, watery eyes, sneezing, coughing, runny noses and congestion are some typical allergy symptoms locals suffer from — they are also among the most treatable. According to Cromie, studies show that people who start allergy medications before the season begins benefit greatly when it comes to feeling better.

At Chattanooga Allergy Clinic, doctors and patients work through the three “A’s of allergies,” Avoidance, Allergy medications and Allergy shots, to help treat patients. First, an allergist conducts skin tests to determine what patients are actually allergic to, and then comes up with a plan of avoidance if possible. The next step for those who are allergic to more than a few simple triggers and irritants is to start allergy medications. Cromie listed a few as Zyrtec, Allegra, Claritin and added that there is a new nasal spray coming out this spring that many will fi nd helpful called Dymista.

“It’s a combination steroid and antihistamine available in a nasal spray,” he said.

The last of the three “A’s” for Chattanooga Allergy Clinic is allergy shots. This option is more of a cure than a cover-up for allergies and their symptoms, said Cromie.

“This method gradually changes the way your immune system is overreacting,” he explained.

“Each shot contains a tiny amount of what you are allergic to, so it’s tailor-made to your specifi c inhalant allergies.” He added that insurance companies often favor this treatment as it is compared to a preventive therapy for patients, and not only decreases symptoms but reduces medication costs and can prevent asthma from developing by 50 percent.

School is back in session and Chattanoogans are hopeful that cooler temperatures and football tailgates are just around the corner. However, before all the fall festivities begin, it’s time to start getting ready to beat the season’s nasty allergens.
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