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Seasonal and Chronic Allergies

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Summary & Participants

What time of the year is allergy season? Actually, it's all year long for some allergy sufferers. Learn the difference between seasonal and year-round allergies, and the treatments available for both.

Medically Reviewed On: July 21, 2012

Webcast Transcript

EVE RUBENSTEIN: When did I first realize that I had allergies? I really can't remember because I've been an allergy sufferer all my life.

ANNOUNCER: Like millions of Americans who live with allergies, Eve Rubenstein spent much of her life trying everything she could to combat her symptoms.

EVE RUBENSTEIN: I took a lot of Sudafed. I took a lot of antihistamine. I was trying everything staying away from parks when it was hay fever season. Or making sure you didn't go to someone's home who had a cat. It was hard.

ANNOUNCER: Part of the difficulty is that Eve has both seasonal and chronic allergies. But just what is an allergy?

GILLIAN SHEPHERD, MD: What allergy is, is when your immune overreacts to normal, common substances. Normal people don't overreact to peanut, don't overreact to grass pollen. And that's the curse of the allergy person.

BETH CORN, MD: What happens is on first exposure, nothing happens to you. But then on a repeat exposure-whether it's the second exposure or the twelfth exposure-- that's when the body produces an antibody which starts a whole cascade of events

GILLAN SHEPHERD, MD: When grass pollen enters, it'll bind with this allergy protein, which releases a lot of chemicals and most people are familiar with the one, histamine. It also induces a lot of itching, eyes, nose, sneezing.

ANNOUNCER: A common misperception about allergies is that they only become active at certain times of the year.

GILLIAN SHEPHERD, MD: A lot of people think allergies only happen in the spring or fall, but actually there are two types of allergy problems. One is what we call seasonal, and certainly it happens typically in the spring. And that is due to tree pollen. Then in the summer it's due to grass pollen. And in the fall it's due to the pollens of weeds, notoriously ragweed .

However in addition to being seasonal a lot of allergies are what we call perennial. They're there throughout the entire year. And these are the people that are allergic, for example to dust mites in their home, to the pets in their home. In some areas of inner city, cockroach allergy is a major problem. And in a lot of parts of the country, mold allergy is a major problem.

ANNOUNCER: For many allergy sufferers, everyday life can be negatively affected by their symptoms. ELI MELTZER, MD: I have people who come to see me because they're socially impaired because they can't visit certain houses because there's an animal.

EVE RUBENSTEIN, MD: I can't go to people's houses who have cats because that's still a real problem for me.

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