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Allergy Immunotherapy more common as allergies worsen in Michigan

Allergy Immunotherapy more common as allergies worsen
Published: May. 18, 2022 at 6:45 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - Warmer weather has come to Michigan and that means pollen has too. If you’re sniffling and sneezing more this week, you’re not alone.

More and more people are trying allergy Immunotherapy, a potential life changer for those suffering from allergies.

Dr. Lawrence Hennessey is an allergist in Okemos and President-Elect for the Michigan Allergy and Asthma Association. He’s been very busy this spring and it seems like each year there are more cases than the year before.

“Especially this spring, we had a big uptick in allergic nasal issues,” Hennessey said. “I think part of it is the fact that we had a very cold April.”

Over the past decade, Hennessey has seen more patients come in with severe allergies this time of year. Claude Johnson Perry is one of the many Michigan people drowning in allergies.

“I am allergic to just darn near about everything,” said Perry. “For people who don’t know what it’s like, it is truly awful.”

The constant coughing, sneezing, dizziness, and sometimes even swelling remind Perry every single day that spring is here.

For some, allergies are seasonal and for the most part doable. But for others -- like Perry -- they are mentally and physically draining.

“But what’s going on behind the scenes that a lot of people don’t realize is that if you sneeze and cough that often, it starts to hurt your chest,” Perry said. “It hurts your head it makes you kind of dizzy.”

He takes over-the-counter medications but they sometimes make him sleepy and sometimes they’re not strong enough. That’s why Immunotherapy is growing more common, because it aims at the root causes of allergies.

“The only way to deal with the root cause is either to completely avoid the allergen which is impossible if you live in Michigan,” said Hennessey. “Or to retrain your immune system not to react to the allergen and that’s what we do with the allergy injections.”

Allergy immunotherapy works by building up a tolerance to allergens over a long period. Injections are most commonly taken weekly but drops are also growing in popularity -- although not fully FDA approved. Sometimes they have to be taken regularly for years before patients feel the full effect.

Immunotherapy is more accessible than ever before, but it hasn’t always been that way in the past. Perry has wanted to try it but his health insurance hasn’t covered it.

However, Hennessey said most health insurances cover the treatment nowadays and he’s hopeful more will in the future.

Immunotherapy is easier to get and it works but it’s not for everyone. It requires lots of doctor visits and time.

“We have real success with pollen allergy and it still works most of the time for things like animal dander,” said Hennessey.

He said for those with less severe allergies, over-the-counter medications taken regularly should do the trick. However, if that doesn’t work, he recommends seeing a specialist determine what treatment is best for you.

However, if you do have sudden allergy symptoms doctors say you should also get a COVID test to rule that out. The current fast-spreading variant often exhibits symptoms similar to mild allergies.

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