Christopher Taylor was like most allergy sufferers. Every spring and late summer, when the trees and grasses were letting off pollen, he was forced to stay inside.
He tried allergy medicines, but they just made him tired and worn out.
“I couldn’t even cut the grass,” Christopher says. “I was always on meds, and they made me drowsy and sleepy. My eyes were red and watery, and my nose was always running. I was rundown. It was a miserable feeling; even going to the grocery store was miserable.”
His Holston Medical Group primary care physician, Dr. Curtis Jantzi, recommended allergy testing. “I bucked at the idea at first,” he admits. But at the urging of his wife and reassurance from his provider, Christopher made an appointment to try something different.
That’s when his life changed. After completing allergy testing through HMG’s Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) providers, Christopher learned exactly what he is allergic to so he could start on a plan for recovery.
Solving the allergy problem was especially important for Christopher, who plays for the Amateur Putters Association of Putt-Putt® Golf. He’s been in tournaments across the South and met friends from nearly every state. But reducing allergy symptoms, he notes, is critical to playing well.
“Part of the process of putting is controlling your breathing,” Christopher says. “It’s a lot easier to control when you can actually breathe!”
What is allergy testing?
More than 100 million Americans suffer from allergies every year. Many allergies run in the family, so if your parents or grandparents had allergies, you might, too. While some allergies are just annoying, some can develop into sinus infections or even asthma.
Because Christopher’s allergies to trees, weeds, grasses, and molds made it hard for him to even walk outside, Dr. Jantzi referred him to the HMG specialists for allergy testing.
Each patient is different, but the testing usually takes about two hours. Many patients are asked to bring a book or hand-held hobby (like knitting) to pass the time while waiting for the results.
Christopher’s test involved getting 20-24 little pricks in his arms that contained 58 allergy substances, like pet dander or sap oils. Sometimes the testing involves a scratch test on your back instead. Either way, your body reacts differently to each substance. The bigger the “welt” reaction you get on your skin, the more allergic you are to that substance.
“The test results are color-coded,” Christopher says. “When I had mine done, it looked like a box of Skittles®! I was allergic to everything!”
The good news: His test checked for allergies like plant and tree pollen, molds, dust, animals, and food—all of which can be helped with allergy shots.
What happens after allergy testing?
Christopher completed his allergy test nearly two years ago. Right away he started “immunotherapy,” or shots to help his body build up a tolerance to the things he is allergic to.
He started getting three shots each week for a year. Then he graduated to just two shots each week for about nine months. Today, he only needs one shot every two weeks.
These shots are delivered in the HMG offices, where a provider is present just in case a patient has a reaction to their allergy shot. But each visit typically only takes about 30 minutes.
“In about a month, I could already start to tell the difference,” Christopher says. “It’s been a major upgrade in my quality of life.”
“Several people at work asked me what it’s like to get allergy shots. I told them, ‘If you stay the course, it’s great!’ You do have to stick to the plan, but I was determined I was going to get over the misery of living with allergies.”
How to sign up for allergy testing at HMG
Don’t let allergies create health problems for you. Talk to your primary care provider about referring you to an allergy specialist to identify which allergies are the worst for you. Together, you can develop a plan to prevent or control the symptoms so you can enjoy your life again.
You don’t know what you’re missing out on, so do it sooner rather than later. I’m turning 60; I wish I’d done it 30 years ago.Christopher Taylor
You can also reduce your suffering from everyday allergens by:
- Frequent vacuuming, adding HEPA filtration systems and keeping pets out of your bedroom
- Staying inside on windy days if you have pollen allergies
- Talking to your provider about a combination of over-the-counter and prescription nasal sprays, antihistamines, antibiotics and steroids that can relieve allergy symptoms
- Finding out if sinusitis makes your allergies worse; balloon sinus procedures may give you relief and make your allergies more manageable
Christopher has a piece of advice for anyone who is not sure about allergy testing: “You don’t know what you’re missing out on, so do it sooner rather than later. I’m turning 60; I wish I’d done it 30 years ago.”
Because his allergies kept him indoors, Christopher says he felt like he missed the little things in life. “One of the things that was affected was my sense of smell. Now when I walk past flowers, I think, ‘I remember what that used to smell like!’”
During his frequent visits to the ENT office, Christopher got to know the providers almost as well as his primary care provider. “I have good friendships with them now,” he says. “They’re great people to deal with. They treat you like family.”
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