Month: September 2016

Hay Fever in the Fall

September may be the month to consult an allergy specialist Centreville VA patients turn to, as ragweed pollen counts peak and wreak havoc in allergic individuals in the Washington, DC, Northern Virginia, and Maryland metropolitan area including the following cities in Northern Virginia: McLean, VA, Tysons Corner, VA, Vienna, VA, Fairfax, VA, Arlington, VA, Great Falls, VA, Falls Church, VA, Annandale, VA, Alexandria, VA, Reston, VA, Herndon, VA, Sterling, VA, Oakton, VA, Burke, VA, Manassas, VA, Centreville, VA, Chantilly, VA, Gainesville, VA, Haymarket, VA, Warrenton, VA, Springfield, VA, Dumfries, VA, Culpeper, VA, Ashburn, VA, Leesburg, VA, Purcellville, VA. Ragweed also affects the surrounding Maryland cities such as Bethesda, MD, Chevy Chase, MD, Potomac, MD, Great Falls, MD, Gaithersburg, MD, Rockville, MD, Darnestown, MD, Germantown, MD, Olney, MD, Silver Spring, MD, Wheaton, MD, College Park, MD, Hyattsville, MD, Beltsville, MD, Bowie, MD, Clinton, MD, Annapolis, MD, Columbia, MD, and Baltimore, MD. In the DC metropolitan area, ragweed begins to pollinate in mid-September and ends at the first frost which is usually at the end of October.

What is Ragweed?
As an allergy specialist Centreville, VA has to offer might attest, ragweed is a tough and hardy soft-stemmed weed that can grow well along roadsides, riverbanks, vacant lots, and fields. It belongs to a genus called Ambrosia and there are 17 different species of ragweed. The height of the plants generally range from about 3 inches to 12 feet.

The plants mature in mid-Summer and produce small flowers. Warmth, decreased humidity, and active breezes after sunrise help create the ideal environment for ragweed flowers to release their pollen. Each individual plant can release up to one billion pollen grains. Though most of the released pollen stays in the general area, some grains can travel as many as 500 miles in dry and windy conditions. This helps explain why pollen counts are usually lowest on rainy days and cool mornings. Individual plants pollinate only for one season but the seeds survive in the soil from year to year producing fresh crops each year. Over the past decade, the EPA has noticed a prolonged ragweed season in the Washington, DC area. Climate changes and increased carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere may play a role in this prolongation of the ragweed season.

How Does it Cause Allergies?
Though ragweed pollen is generally harmless, in a genetically susceptible individual, the immune system can mistake it as potentially dangerous invader and mount a defensive attack. This process triggers antigen (ragweed) vs. antibody (immunoglobulin) reactions on exposure, resulting in the release of chemical mediators like histamine which are responsible for the classic annoying hay fever and/or asthma symptoms. An estimated 15% of all Americans are sensitive to ragweed. As an allergy specialist in Centreville VA may explain, the risk of developing sensitivity is higher in people with other types of allergic disorders like eczema (i.e., atopic dermatitis) and asthma and in those with a family history of similar disorders.

What are the Symptoms?

  • Itchy nose, eyes, throat, and ears
  • Watery and/or red eyes
  • Runny nose, nasal congestion, and/or post-nasal drip
  • Sneezing
  • Post nasal drip and/or throat irritation
  • Cough, chest tightness, wheezing, and/or shortness of breath
  • Sinus pressure and/or headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Snoring
  • Clogging and/or popping of the ears

Though “hay fever” is the term commonly in vogue, “seasonal allergic rhinitis” is a more accurate description of the condition.

Oral allergy syndrome (i.e., Pollen-food allergy syndrome) is a condition where one experiences itching of the lips, mouth, and/or throat after eating fresh fruits and/or vegetables. The cause of the phenomenon is a cross-reactivity between similar proteins in the pollen and the fruits and/or vegetables. Ragweed pollen typically cross-reacts with melons, bananas, cucumbers, avocados, kiwi, and zucchini.

How is it Diagnosed?
An allergy specialist Centreville, VA residents turn to for help will take a thorough history and physical examination. A simple allergy skin test can be performed by applying the diluted allergen (ragweed) to the surface of the skin. A raised, itchy, red bump after 15 to 20 minutes at the site of application confirms sensitivity to the allergen. Alternatively, a blood test can also be done.

What Can Be Done to Minimize the Symptoms?

  • Keeping track of pollen counts and avoiding outdoor activities to the possible extent on high pollen days.
  • Keeping the windows closed in homes and automobiles and running air-conditioning.
  • Changing clothes and showering before going to bed.

If the symptoms are bothersome in spite of environmental control, several medications like antihistamines, nasal sprays, eye drops, and inhalers may be needed. Keep in mind that most medications only mask the symptoms without treating the underlying cause and can cause undesirable side effects. Many individuals also become tolerant to an antihistamine and what had helped initially becomes ineffective.

Allergen immunotherapy (i.e., allergy shots, allergy injections, allergy desensitization) is a process of increasing tolerance to the allergens by exposing the immune system to gradually increasing the concentrations of the antigen at regular intervals. This process has the potential to offer long-term benefit to many people who experience bothersome symptoms every year. Allergy shots are effective in 80-85% of individuals and have been used in the U.S. for over 100 years.

A Centreville, VA allergy specialist at Black & Kletz Allergy can treat both adults and children with ragweed allergies in the Washington, DC, Northern Virginia, and Maryland metropolitan area. We have convenient offices in Washington, DC, McLean, VA (Tysons Corner, VA), and Manassas, VA that all offer on-site parking. The Washington, DC and McLean, VA offices are Metro accessible and there is a free shuttle between the McLean, VA office and the Springhill metro station on the silver line. Please call us for an appointment or alternatively you can click Request an Appointment and we will respond within 24 hours by the next business day. We can also answer your questions and concerns about other allergic and immunologic disorders, since we have been providing allergy, asthma, and immunology care to the local community for over 50 years. If you’re looking for an allergy specialist Centreville, VA patients recommend, turn to a board certified allergist at Black & Kletz Allergy.

Generalized Itching and What Should Be Done About It

Everyone has had an itch here or there, but as an allergist Washington DC patients rely on might attest, generalized itching (itching all over the body) does not occur in everyone.  Generalized itching (i.e., pruritus) is not uncommon and is very annoying to the person suffering from this condition.  It often may be associated with hives (i.e., urticaria), and/or angioedema (i.e., swelling).  The intensity of the itching can range from mild to very severe.  It can be so bothersome that it decreases the quality of life for that individual.

In many cases, the generalized itching is short-lived and subsides in a couple of days.  In a number of cases, however, it persists more than a couple of days and the duration can last for years in extreme cases.  Most individuals have tried over-the-counter topical creams and/or oral medications with minimal or no effect by the time they seek help from an allergist Washington DC patients trust.

The board certified allergist at Black & Kletz Allergy have seen and treated thousands of cases of generalized pruritus throughout the years in the Washington, DC, Northern Virginia, and Maryland metropolitan area.  Our 3 office locations in Washington, DC, McLean, VA (Tysons Corner, VA), and Manassas, VA affords us the opportunity to treat patients in such adjacent Northern Virginia cities, some of which include Arlington, VA, Alexandria, VA, Falls Church, VA, Vienna, VA, Great Falls, VA, Reston, VA, Herndon, VA, Sterling, VA, Annandale, VA, Oakton, VA, Burke, VA, Centreville, VA, Haymarket, VA, Chantilly, VA, Gainesville, VA, Fairfax, VA, Springfield, VA, Warrenton, VA, Dumfries, VA, Culpeper, VA, Ashburn, VA,  Leesburg, VA, and Purcellville, VA.  In addition, we also treat many patients from Maryland due to its proximity to our offices largely from the following cities:  Chevy Chase, MD, Bethesda, MD, Potomac, MD, Great Falls, MD, Rockville, MD, Gaithersburg, MD, Darnestown, MD, Germantown, MD, Olney, MD, Wheaton, MD, Silver Spring, MD, College Park, MD, Beltsville, MD, Hyattsville, MD, Clinton, MD, Bowie, MD, Columbia, MD, Annapolis, MD, and Baltimore, MD.

It may be important to see an allergist in Washington, DC for generalized pruritus in order to try to find out the cause.  At Black & Kletz Allergy, it begins with a thorough history and physical examination.  There are many causes of itching ranging from different allergies (e.g., foods, medications, contact with allergens) to various systemic medical conditions, some of which may be serious.  It is therefore important that a cause be identified, so that either the allergen is avoided or treatment can be aimed at the underlying systemic condition responsible for the manifestation of the itching.  In many acute (i.e., less than 6 weeks in duration) cases of generalized pruritus, no testing is needed as a thorough history and physical examination may be enough in order to figure out the cause.  When the duration exceeds this length of time and/or symptoms are very bothersome, allergy tests and/or blood tests may be indicated in order to find the cause of the itching.  Either way, patients are treated on their first visit with medications in order to stop their itching.

Contact an allergist Washington DC residents respect
The allergy doctors at Black & Kletz Allergy treat both adults and children.  If you suffer from itching, hives, swelling episodes, or any other allergy such as hay fever, asthma, sinus conditions, and/or eczema, please call one of our 3 offices to make an appointment.  Alternatively, you can click Request an Appointment and we will respond within 24 hours by the next business day.  All of the offices offer on-site parking and the Washington, DC and McLean, VA offices are Metro accessible.  There is a free shuttle that runs between our McLean, VA office and the Spring Hill metro station on the silver line.  Black & Kletz Allergy has been providing high quality allergy, asthma, and immunology care to the greater Washington, DC metro area for more than 50 years. Call us today for an allergist Washington DC is proud to have in its community.