When spring arrives in the Twin Cities, it's generally an enjoyable time. The snow has melted, the temperature is warm enough to get outside, and trees begin to bud.
But if you talk to seasonal allergy sufferers, they have a slightly different take on the change in season.
"A lot of patients with allergies will have recurrent sinus infections, where month after month they'll need to get an antibiotic," said Dr. John Sweet, an allergist from Hennepin County Medical Center. "It'll be a trigger for migraine headaches. Allergies can set off asthma symptoms if you also have asthma."
Dr. Sweet is a former allergy sufferer himself. Now, he treats patients at the HCMC Clinic in Golden Valley.
This year, he started seeing patients with mold allergies as early as February.
And those allergic to tree pollen are seeing symptoms now, as opposed to the normal time at the beginning of April
"It is a trend we're seeing," Dr. Sweet said. "Year-to-year, we're starting to see allergy season start earlier and last longer."
Dr. Sweet says an estimated 40 to 50 percent of the population suffers from seasonal allergies. He recommends they begin using their nasal sprays and antihistamine now if they haven't already. Otherwise, if medication doesn't work, he suggests getting an allergy test.
During an allergy test, Dr. Sweet essentially scratches the surface of a patient’s skin and looks for evidence of an allergic response.
From there, he can find out what to put into allergy shots.
"We actually take what patients are allergic to, we dilute it down, water it down so low that the body can barely tell what it is, and we give tiny doses into the body," he said. "And every time they come to the clinic, we give a little stronger dose, teaching the body to tolerate these things from the inside."
Kim Lasch used to suffer from seasonal allergies, until two years ago when she began getting allergy shots.
"I had a huge issue with always having to itch my eyes and I don't have that anymore, so that's a big relief for me," Lasch said.
As for who should get an allergy test, Dr. Sweet recommends it for anyone who feels their medications aren't working, or who wants to be off medications altogether.
March 27, 2017