Health Chats
Allergies - How to Manage and Find Relief
Tuesday May 24, 2011, 01:00PM - 02:00PM (EST)
Associate Staff Physician
Cleveland Clinic
Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care Medicine, Cleveland, OH
Allergic disorders affect an estimated 1 in 5 adults and children (40 to 50 million people) and are the sixth leading cause of chronic illness in the United States, according to the Allergy Report from the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAI). With allergy season here in full bloom, take this opportunity to chat with an expert on how you can properly manage your allergies and find some much-needed relief.<br><br> Allergists at Cleveland Clinic’s Department of Allergy and Immunology have unparalleled expertise in the diagnosis and treatment of all diseases encompassed by their specialty. This expertise and experience attracts patients from all over the world who seek a definitive diagnosis or state-of-the-art treatments, from respiratory diseases allergy problems. Dr. Koelsch, a Cleveland Clinic allergist, will provide answers to your questions about allergies during this online chat.
Hello everyone and welcome to today's health chat with Dr. Rachel Koelsch. We will be starting in a few minutes, but please feel free to submit your questions now.
Rachel Koelsch, MD:
Thank you for asking me to participate. I am happy to help answer your allergy and asthma questions.
Welcome Dr. Koelsch!  We are so excited to have you here today.
Does acupuncture help reduce the symptoms of allergies?  Are there any Traditional Chinese Medicine or natural treatments that have been proven to work on the symptoms of allergies?
Rachel Koelsch, MD:
I am not aware of any data that shows whether alternative medicine techniques help allergies or asthma. Saline sinus rinses are very helpful and not harmful.
my daughter has had a runny nose since last september with occasional sinus infections as well.  She's will be three next week.  She also breaths through her mouth since her nose is always running.  Any suggestions?
Rachel Koelsch, MD:
I recommend she see a pediatric ENT (ear, nose, and throat doctor) to evaluate her for enlarged adenoids. The ENT can then decide whether a visit to an allergist is appropriate.
Should everyone who has allergies get tested to find out what is exactly causing the allergies or is taking over the counter medication good enough?
Rachel Koelsch, MD:
You do not need to be tested for allergies. If over the counter medications help you and you don't care to find out what exactly you are allergic to, then there is no need for testing.
My Daughter suffers terribly from Hay Fever, and for some reason the over the counter anti histamines are not working any more. Is it possible to become immune to the anti histamines?. Thanking you in advance.
Rachel Koelsch, MD:
Some people have very bad allergy symptoms that are not controlled with antihistamines. Prescription nasal sprays and other medications often need to be used instead or added to the antihistamine. Allergy shots to desensitize one to allergies are also needed in some people.
I have allergies but the main problem I am having right now is my hands and feet itch bad.  The only thing that helps is benedryl but then all I want to do is sleep is there anything else I may use to help this/
Rachel Koelsch, MD:
Yes, I would try a non-sedating, long-acting antihistamine like Allegra or Zyrtec. Both of these are available over the counter now. Some people still get sleepy with Zyrtec or Allegra but much less than with Benadryl.
What is the best allergie med. for teens?
Rachel Koelsch, MD:
Any over the counter antihistamine, such as Allegra, Zyrtec, or Claritin. The generic forms of these medications are just as effective as brand name.
For the past 2 weeks i've been itching alot, when I scratch I get red bumps in that specific area (hives).  This just came up all of a sudden, no changes in food, products etc.  Can this be caused by stress or gastrointestinal (esophagus)  problems??  I've been taking Allegra and it help for aprox 2 days and then itch starts all over again.  I dont want to keep taking them. Will this ever stop?
Rachel Koelsch, MD:
Chronic hives are quite frustrating. Usually there is no known cause. Emotional and physical stress can trigger outbreaks. The treatment of choice is daily antihistamines, like your Allegra. Hopefully, the hives will resolve in a few weeks or months, but some people are bothered by them for years.
This is for one of my community members. - The last few weeks my allergies have been acting up worse then ever and for about the last 2 weeks or so my skin (mostly my hands and arms) have been so dry and peeling. Could this be caused by my allergies, and does anyone have any tips or suggestions on how to make my skin soft again! :)
Rachel Koelsch, MD:
Eczema often goes along with allergies and can flare up with your allergy season. However, you should see your doctor and get some basic lab work, like thyroid testing, to be sure something else isn't going on. Also, moisturizing daily with an unscented cream (like Vanicream, Eucerin, Cetaphil, Aquaphor) can be helpful
My son is 16 , he has eczema and also a peanut allergy.  He is allergic to tree nuts; cashews, hazelnut, walnuts & pistachos.  He was tested for "peanuts" and nothing was positive.  My question is; since he is allergic to the tree nuts, should peanuts also be avoided?
Rachel Koelsch, MD:
Tree nuts and peanuts are different from each other. Peanuts are actually legumes. You should see an allergist to help you figure out if he needs to avoid peanuts as well.
My wife told me that breastfeeding our newborn will help reduce the likelihood of her developing allergies in the future. Is this correct?
Rachel Koelsch, MD:
We really don't think breastfeeding prevents allergies. It is good for the baby in other ways, so I would consider it. Avoiding certain foods while breastfeeding also will likely not prevent a food allergy in the child.
Dr. Koelsch, does the Cleveland Clinic have any clinical trials in process for products that look really promising?
Rachel Koelsch, MD:
There are a lot of asthma studies going on at the Cleveland Clinic. We have an asthma center here. There is a new treatment for severe asthma, called bronchial thermoplasty, that is now being done at the Cleveland Clinic. We also have several studies going on with Xolair, an antibody that binds allergic antibodies so they can't influence the asthma (in patients with asthma AND allergies). Both things are very helpful in patients with severe asthma that are having difficulty controlling their asthma with standard medications.
Okay thank you welll... What's up with my sore throat ahhhh .. I been told it was a sinus infection but mannnnnnnnn this is working on meee it goes away after I eat and what not and drink and stuff but at nite or in the morning its soooo painful I've had it since thursday! And it's painful !! You think this could be a chronic sinus infection... I cough up flem and what not with it tooo .. B
Rachel Koelsch, MD:
A lot of things could be causing your sore throat. I suggest you see a physician and have it evaluated. Viral infections, bacterial sinus infections, acid reflux, and many other things can cause a sore throat.
Are there any new, inexpensive ways to test for allergies, including food allergies?  I don't have insurance and haven't been tested in about 25 years.
Rachel Koelsch, MD:
If you currently eat the foods without problems, then it is a free way to know you are not allergic to the foods. However, if you have been avoiding the foods and had a reaction that is indicative of an allergic reaction, the I suggest you see an allergist to help you sort it out. I would call the office and ask them how much they charge per test. A skin prick test is the typical and, usually, most inexpensive way to test for a food allergy. Some physicians or health centers will give you a discount for private pay or offer help with your bills. I suggest you contact them prior to having any testing done so you are stuck with a big bill.
I have a constant "tickle" in my throat that I think is due to allergies.  I am always clearing my throat because it feels like there is mucus caught.  I heard this is probably post-nasal drip but it drives me crazy and everyone around me crazy!  I have really bad allergies so is that what is causing this?  I take Zyrtec and Nasonex but do you suggest anything different?
Rachel Koelsch, MD:
If you are on a blood pressure medication, called an ACE inhibitor, it could be causing your symptoms. Allergies and postnasal drip can also cause this but, if you are not better with allergy medication, I suggest you look for a different cause. Perhaps saline sinus rinses will help. Acid reflux can also cause these symptoms, even if you don't have the classic heartburn.
Four weeks ago I switched to an alkaline diet. Over the course of 2 days I ate 6 avocado pears. I developed a hot, itchy, red rash over 95% of my body. I have had two courses of oral steroids and have been told to keep taking anti-histamine tablets for another 2 months. The rash has now mainly gone and my skin is very dry and flaky. I have just had the results of blood tests and have been told my Gamma GT levels are raised. Could this be as a result of the allergy?