Month: March 2018

Eye Allergies (Allergic Conjunctivitis)

Now that it is March and the Spring has begun, many individuals will experience irritated eyes.  The typical eye symptoms that allergic individuals may notice include itchy eyes, watery eyes, puffy or swollen eyelids, thick sticky discharge, eyelids sticking together especially in the mornings when awakening.  In most cases, tree and/or grass pollen allergy is the cause, however allergies to other allergens such as molds, pets, dust mites, and/or cockroaches may be the allergic cause.

Most individuals with allergic conjunctivitis have associated allergic rhinitis (i.e., hay fever)where they have other symptoms which may include sneezing, runny nose, nasal congestion, post-nasal drip, itchy nose, itchy throat, sinus headaches, sinus pressure, and/or snoring.  Asthmatic individuals may experience increased asthma symptoms in the Spring if they are sensitive to outdoor allergens such as tree pollen, grass pollen, and/or molds.  It is not unusual for some individuals to experience increased asthma, allergic rhinitis, and allergic conjunctivitis symptoms together.

The diagnosis of allergic conjunctivitis begins with a comprehensive history and physical examination by a board certified allergist.  Allergy skin testing or blood testing is usually performed in order to identify if and what the offending allergens are that are causing the allergic eye symptoms.

When evaluating an individual with the symptoms of eye allergies, it is important for the physician to rule out other causes of red eyes or “pink eye.”  Viral, bacterial, and/or parasitic infections of the eye(s) can cause similar symptoms but are treated differently. Chemical irritation or a foreign body can also cause the eyes to become red.  Anterior uveitis, which can be associated with an autoimmune disorder or a sexually transmitted disease, may also cause redness of the eyes. In addition, there is usually “photophobia” which is the pain in the eyes when in a bright environment.  A subconjunctival hemorrhage or bleed may also occur when the capillaries break near the “whites” of the eyes. Some causes of subconjunctival hemorrhages may include trauma, coughing, straining, sneezing elevated blood pressure, diabetes, and/or certain blood thinning medications [e.g.., aspirin, Coumadin (warfarin), Plavix (clopidogrel), Eliquis (apixaban), Pradaxa (dabigatran), Xarelto (rivaroxaban), Brilinta (ticagrelor), Effient (prasugrel), Aggrenox (aspirin plus dipyridamole)].  They can also just occur spontaneously without an apparent cause.

The treatment of allergic conjunctivitis may include the use of various eye drops, oral antihistamines, nasal corticosteroids, leukotriene antagonists, and/or allergy shots (i.e., allergy injections, allergy immunotherapy, allergy desensitization, allergy hyposensitization).  Of course, avoiding the offending allergen is the first and primary focus with any allergy, but in most cases, especially if allergic to the pollen in the Spring, it is almost impossible to avoid.  That being said, there are still some avoidance measures that can be practiced in order to limit one’s exposure to pollen. Some of them are as follows:

  1.  Close the windows of your home and automobiles.
  2.  Change your clothes and shower after spending a long time outdoors or after yard work.
  3.  Follow the local pollen count on our website by clicking Today’s Pollen Count.
  4.  Go outdoors after it rains as the pollen count is “washed away” temporarily after the rain.
  5.  Wash the fur of your pet after it comes indoors from the outside.
  6.  Leave your shoes outdoors after being outdoors.
  7.  Begin using nasal sprays and/or antihistamines early in the pollen season.
  8.  Consider allergy shots, as mentioned above, if more severe or persistent symptoms to pollens and/or molds, as they generally are effective in 80-85% of individuals with allergic conjunctivitis and/or allergic rhinitis.

The board-certified allergy doctors at Black & Kletz Allergy are specialists in diagnosing and treating both adults and children with allergic conjunctivitis as well as many other allergic disorders.  Some of these include allergic rhinitis, asthma, sinus disease, eczema (i.e., atopic dermatitis)hives (i.e. urticaria)generalized itching (i.e., pruritus), contact dermatitis (e.g., poison ivy, poison oak, poison sumac), swelling episodes (i.e., angioedema)anaphylaxisinsect sting allergiesfood allergies, medication allergies, eosinophilic disorders (e.g., eosinophilic esophagitis), and immunological disorders.  Black & Kletz Allergy has 3 convenient locations in the Washington, DC, Northern Virginia, and Maryland metropolitan area.  We have offices in Washington, DC, McLean, VA (Tysons Corner), and Manassas, VA.  All of our locations offer on-site parking and our 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.

If you suffer from allergies or any of the conditions listed in the above paragraph, please call us in order to schedule an appointment with one of our board-certified allergists.  You may also click Request an Appointment and we will respond within 24 hours by the next business day.  The allergists at Black & Kletz have been helping the residents and visitors of the Washington, DC metropolitan area for more than 50 years and are pleased to help you improve the quality of your life by alleviating those unwanted and annoying allergies and asthma symptoms.

Allergies in the Spring

March is the month that many trees begin pollinating in the Washington, DC metropolitan area. As temperatures begin to climb, we will start seeing a light yellowish coating on our automobiles. For many allergy sufferers, this represents the onset of misery for many individuals who are sensitized to tree pollen.

Birch, oak, cedar, elm, ash, cottonwood, hickory, and maple are the predominant trees producing pollen in our area.  It is the reproductive season for the trees and the pollen grains are released into the atmosphere to fertilize the ovules of other trees.  Pollen is produced and dispersed by the wind throughout the day, but their counts are highest in the morning hours.

Over the past several years, many researchers have noted a progressive increase in the tree pollen counts across the country.  Though it is somewhat controversial, many scientists believe that climate change is contributing to this trend at least in part.  Carbon dioxide is the principal gas needed for the growth and development of trees, (along with nutrients, water, and sunlight), and increasing levels of carbon dioxide are being documented every year.  Changes in the climate may impact pollen seasons of trees, grasses, and weeds by both increasing the amount of pollen produced as well as by extending the duration of the pollen season.

Pollen grains are not toxic or harmful when inhaled, unless the person’s immune system mistakes them as potentially dangerous and mounts a defensive attack on them.  This process, called allergic sensitization and reactivity, results in the release of certain chemicals such as histamine, which are mediators of the bothersome symptoms of allergic rhinitis (i.e., hay fever) and allergic conjunctivitis.

The most common symptoms of Spring allergies may include itchy eyes, red eyes, watery eyes, puffy eyes, sneezing, clear nasal secretions, nasal congestion, post-nasal drip that may cause throat irritation and cough, itchy throat, clogged ears, sinus pressure, sinus headaches, and/or snoring.  In asthmatics, the pollen can also trigger wheezing, chest tightness, coughing, and/or shortness of breath.

Spring allergies are diagnosed by board certified allergists by first taking a comprehensive history and physical examination.  Allergy testing is often done by either skin testing or occasionally by blood testing in order to identify the offending allergen.  Once identified, preventive measures are recommended in order to reduce exposure to the allergen(s).

Measures to reduce exposure to pollen and to minimize symptoms include the following:

  1. Follow the local pollen counts on the homepage on our website by clicking Today’s Pollen Count and avoid outdoor activities on high pollen days, especially in early morning hours.
  2. Run errands shortly after it rains, as the water keeps the pollen closer to the ground and keeps it from blowing around.
  3. After being outdoors, change clothes and wash the ones that were worn outside.
  4. Leave shoes outside so you do not bring the pollen into the home.
  5. Wipe down the fur of the pet or wash the pet before the animal comes indoors.
  6. Shower before going to bed in order to wash the pollen off one’s hair and skin.
  7. Close the windows in homes and automobiles and run the air conditioning if needed.
  8. Begin taking antihistamines and nasal sprays early in the season.  They are more effective if begun before the onset of severe symptoms and if taken daily throughout the season.  There are a variety of other types of prescription medications that may be utilized by the allergist in order to mitigate unwanted allergy and/or asthma symptoms in sensitive individuals.
  9. In cases of persistent or severe symptoms, consider allergy desensitization (i.e. allergy shots, allergy immunotherapy, allergy injections, allergy hyposensitization) to the pollen, which can provide a long-term benefit and reduce the need for medications.  They are effective in 80-85% of patients.

Does local honey help?

There is no scientific evidence to substantiate the claim that consuming local honey will help either to desensitize to pollen or to reduce symptoms.

The board certified allergy doctors at Black & Kletz Allergy has 3 locations in the Washington, Northern Virginia, and Maryland metropolitan area. We have offices in Washington, DC, McLean, VA (Tysons Corner, VA), and Manassas, VA.  All 3 of our offices have on-site parking and the Washington, DC and McLean, VA offices are Metro accessible.  The McLean office has a complementary shuttle that runs between our office and the Spring Hill metro station on the silver line.  The allergists of Black & Kletz Allergy diagnose and treat both pediatric and adult patients.  For an appointment, please call our office or alternatively, you can click Request an Appointment and we will respond within 24 hours by the next business day.  The allergy specialists at Black & Kletz Allergy have been helping patients with hay fever, asthma, sinus disease, eczema, hives, insect sting allergies, immunological disorders, medication allergies, and food allergies for more than 50 years.  If you suffer from allergies, it is our mission to improve your quality of life by reducing or preventing your unwanted and aggravating allergy symptoms.