Early Summer Conditions Increase Pollen in the Air and Allergic Reactions

By Dennis Archambault

You may have noticed that in the natural world everything is occurring a little earlier this year: it’s a little warmer, the trees are flowering, the plants are in at least a week earlier.

However you define climate change, the frost advisory has been moved up a week and it feels like June in May.

As a result, pollen is released sooner, pollen counts are higher, and the season lasts longer. This plays havoc with our immune system and causes problems for people with pre-existing breathing problems. Extended bouts of sneezing, coughing fits, and itchy watery eyes are some of the symptoms that many people are noticing. But people with asthma are reporting acute incidents of the disease.

Pollen is an invasive agent that enters the body through eyes, nose, and through. The body recognizes it as alien, like bacteria or a virus, and feels a need to defend against it. This creates an allergic reaction.

This is one of the areas where primary care providers play a key role in treating people experiencing problems that prevent them from attending school or work – or are just generally miserable.

“Involve your doctor when you start developing a serious allergic reaction to pollen,” advises Jonathon Lovy, D.O., Medical Director of Authority. While consumers are enticed by advertising to reach for over-the-counter medications, physicians are trained to provide appropriate treatment that will prevent the need for urgent care or emergency hospitalization. But more important, they know the patient’s history of chronic disease and may determine a greater risk for certain people, such as those with chronic obstructive coronary disease (COPD). “Just having guidance on how to navigate is important. We may be uncovering a host of predispositions that may be hidden.”

Having an ongoing relationship with a primary care provider, particularly if you have a chronic condition, increases the ability to manage the condition without needing specialty care.

“Think of your primary care doctor as someone who treats pathology but also someone who treats you with wellness. Your primary care doctor is your personal physician, designed to answer questions as someone who knows you,” says Dr. Lovy. He wants more people to change from looking at medical care as “urgent” care, but an ongoing relationship based on achieving maximum wellness for the patient.

“The primary care doctor’s training is in prevention; controlling your conditions before you need to see a cardiologist or a pulmonologist.”

Much can be done about an allergic reaction from a quick telehealth visit. For primary care practices designed in the primary care medical home model, like those sponsored by Authority Health, same day appointments are always possible.

The answer may lie in limited use of over-the-counter treatments, but it’s best for the primary care provider to make that determination.

Dennis Archambault is vice president of Public Affairs for Authority Health.

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