As the presence of tree pollens finally begins to make its descent, that of grass pollens is growing.
Chattanooga Allergy Clinic encourages patients to get ahead of the season and be ready for all the allergens the summer months bring.
"Heading into late May, grass pollens really peak, and we have tons of different grasses here," said Dr. Lee Perry. "Here, we have Bermuda, Timothy, Johnson fescue and sweet vernal grasses, and many of those are cross-reactive."
Patients who suffer from grass and ragweed allergens have a new option available for treatment in the form of pills, he said. "We typically prescribe over-the-counter medications, nasal sprays or traditional immunotherapy [allergy shots]. However, in the past few weeks, the new medicines of Oralair, Grastek and Ragwitek are now on the market," he explained.
Oralair and Grastek treat grass allergies and Ragwitek treats ragweed allergies. These new medicines are available by prescription only and should only be prescribed by a certified allergist, as there are certain risks patients take on as with any new medication, Dr. Perry said.
"These medicines are also only effective if you start them 12 weeks prior to when the season starts," he stressed. "So for grass season it's really too late to start this round, but for those who battle ragweed allergies, we could get it started now."
The first dose is given in the office so that patients can be monitored, and then subsequent doses are taken at home. Dr. Perry added that patients who only suffer from the specific allergens (grass or ragweed) benefit from these new medications.
"You also have to do this treatment every year," he said. "It's not a lifetime cure that patients would get as with doing allergy shots or traditional immunotherapy." These oral allergy tablets are also less effective in patients who have allergies to multiple allergens (different pollens, pet danders, dust mites and mold).
In addition to grass pollens, summer months also bring summer pests in the form of ants, wasps and yellow jackets. Dr. Perry said it's important to stay aware of your surroundings and avoid getting stung, as some patients can have severe to life threatening reactions.
"If you get stung and have local swelling, even if your whole hand or foot swells, while it's painful, it's not too concerning," he said. "However, if you have a systematic reaction including hives, swelling and shortness of breath, you're at high risk for anaphylaxis, which is a life-threatening allergic reaction."
Dr. Perry said that people who have ever had such a reaction should be seen by an allergist for venom testing and to immediately start taking allergy shots to help correct the problem.
"When a person with venom allergies is stung, there's a 60 percent chance that they could
have a life threatening reaction. However, with allergy shots, we can lower that risk to 3 percent or less," he explained.
Dr. Perry said patients with known venom reactions, who are not currently getting treated, should be sure to have an EpiPen at all times and use common sense when spending time outdoors. "Wear shoes, don't leave Coke cans out and be careful at picnics, as those insects are really attracted to food and drinks people leave behind," he said.
Chattanooga Allergy Clinic treats all types of allergic disorders. The practice has five offices with even providers in and around Chattanooga. For more information about spring allergies or to find an office near you, visit chattanoogaallergyclinic.com or call 423-899-0431.