Dr. Chacko Discussing Gardening with Allergies

Bruce: Gardening in the springtime doesn’t sound fun. I know I’m not going to breathe, my eyes are going to be itchy, so it does something a fun experience at all.

Dr. Chacko: So, Bruce, even with your allergies, we can have you still gardening. The first thing you’re going to want to do is make sure you wear some long clothing, long sleeves, long pants, and gloves to make sure you keep yourself away from the pollen.

So gardening with allergies, I’d make sure that you look at the pollen count and make sure it’s the days that you plant a garden the pollen counts are not exceptionally high. I would also make sure to take off your clothes after you go out and do not bring the pollens inside. I wouldn’t plant any plants outside windows because I could bring upon inside your house. I would also make sure to take your allergy medicine before you go out which will help protect you from any type of allergic reactions.

Also pollen counts tend to be higher in the mornings around 10am to 12pm, so I’d probably plat your garden sometime after that in the later evening.

You don’t want to go out gardening on a windy day because a windy day will then increase the pollen count, so on dry days are better.

Bruce: So come with spring, flowers. They make me nervous. Should they?

Dr. Chacko: Actually, these colored flowers really don’t produce a lot of pollen that bother people. It’s really the trees, so I would not be worried about planting any of these type of flowers.

Bruce: So when I mow, my grass allergies absolutely kill me. Is there anything I can do to help with that?

Dr. Chacko: If you’re known to have bad grass allergies and you’re out, make sure you take an antihistamine prior to mowing. You should probably use about an hour to an hour and a half prior to mowing. If you know you have bad grass allergies make sure you use a mask. Lastly, if you use the mask and you’re still having problems, then I might actually get someone else to do the mowing.

Bruce: Someone else has to do my mowing. I think I can live with that.

So before exercising outside in the springtime, there are a few things you should check. One is the pollen count. You want to make sure the pollen counts are not exceptionally high like in the hundreds or thousands.

You want to see the weather and see what the wind levels are. When there are higher winds the pollens get up more in the air and then you breathe it in and have more problems. So you’ll want to go out on a less windy day.

It’s also better to go outside after the rain. The rain keep the pollens down, versus dry days when the pollens are up higher in the air.

Make sure take your medicine. It takes about 30 minutes to an hour for the antihistamines to work so I would take that appropriately on time. The second thing is a lot of people with allergies will also have asthma so their lungs will be constricted. Make sure you take care of your asthma medicine, your albuterol, about 20-30 minutes before you go out for your run. And when you come home make sure to take off your clothes because there will be pollen on your clothes, as well as to wash your hair and shower off because they’ll be pollen your hair.

Sometimes the pollens get astronomically high, like in the thousands, and even those people without allergies can get symptoms at that time. At that time “a” you may want to stay indoors a little bit more or “b” take your medicines, take your antihistamines.

Some patients, even when pollen counts are low will still have bad symptoms if they’re very sensitive. So it’s a combination of your sensitivity as well as the pollen counts.

The take home that I want you to know are people with bad allergies should always exercise. Allergies should not stop them for exercising. Exercising actually helps open the lungs and helps people with asthma get better so we never want to prevent the exercising. They’re great treatments to help with that.

After you do all those precautions and you use the antihistamine and the nasal sprays and you’re still doing poorly, make sure you see a doctor. There are very good treatments to help you with your allergies.

If your allergies are not responding to the traditional medicines or you don’t like them, there’s something called allergy immunotherapy, or allergy shots that help you to cure you of your allergies, and that’s often a treatment that will help significantly with bad springtime pollens.

Happening right now, metro Atlanta is under a smog alert. Here’s a live look outside. It is hot out there.

State officials say so far this year we’ve had 13 alert days and today we learned why we’re seeing more warnings about unhealthy air conditions.

Even when you don’t see a problem in Atlanta’s blue summer sky, pollution from exhaust pipes and ozone is adding up to health concerns this summer.

“Asthmatics, anyone with COPD, or any lung issues in general where their lungs are a little more brittle than the average person, should be aware of anything that could irritate their lungs.”

Dr. Thomas Chacko with Northside Allergy and Asthma tells patients to watch for breathing trouble.

“There are more ER visits for asthma attacks when the ozones high, so you have to be careful of that.”

There’s a Code Orange smog alert.

There has been more smog alert forecasts to share this season for a couple of reasons. Environmental officials lowered the threshold for how much ozone and pollution triggers an alert. Plus, although experts say in the bigger picture Atlanta’s air quality is getting better, recent hot dry air is pushing more days into the orange zone, which can be a problem for those asthma patients. At red, more people might get a cough for feel some throat irritation. But the vast majority of us, doctor Chacko says..

“I want you to go out enjoy the summer, go to the pool, exercise. So if you’re healthy I’d be aware of it, but otherwise wouldn’t limit your activity.”

“Sneezing over and over and over again, head completely congested, eyes watering. It just becomes a very miserable experience.”

Like millions of Americans, Trey Gregory has seasonal allergies.

“Seasonal allergies are generally allergies to different pollens. Specifically the springtime it’s usually the trees. Sometimes generally the grasses, and full time generally weeds.”

The immune system of an allergy sufferer treats pollen, usually a harmless substance, as if it were a threat. The body’s response? Sneezing, itchy, watery eyes, and a runny nose.

“At the peak of suffering from my seasonal allergies I had to avoid the outdoors pretty much the entire spring.”

Seasonal allergies and colds have similar symptoms, but if your symptoms come on suddenly and occur at the same time every year, chances are you have allergies. To be sure you can get tested by an allergy specialist.

“Skin testing is doing little scratches on your either on your arm on your back, and if you’re allergic you’ll get red itching and can swell up. You’ll know those results within about 10 or 15 minutes.”

After years of standard treatment with antihistamines, decongestants, and nasal sprays, Trey now finds relief with monthly allergy shots.

“It’s the best thing I ever did to treat my allergies. Easily.”

We found out Chloe had a severe peanut allergy when she was two. I gave her a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and she broke out in hives. And a couple weeks later we took her to the allergist and they did the skin test and confirmed that she had a severe peanut allergy.

So mostly when we first learned it was a little bit of shock and disbelief just because we had kind of set our minds on how things were gonna be and we had to get used to how things were going to be moving forward.

Well I think it became a matter of how can we be prepared. So, it was about research. It was about always making sure to check every label to learn a different routine that really helped and just became a normal natural part of life.

Chloe’s treatment is epinephrine. If she was ever to have a reaction we would inject it in her outer thigh. She does not administer it but I have trained her on how to so that when she gets older she’ll be prepared.

Right now we’re doing oral immunotherapy treatment where she takes a little bit of peanut over a long period of time to desensitize her, and Chloe is really doing great. So, we have a lot of Hope.

At her school, we’ve put together an action plan with the administration and the teacher. Anyone who is responsible for Chloe knows how to use the epinephrine, knows reactions on what to look for, knows how to read the ingredients, and knows exactly what to do.

Chloe has a safe treat box in her classroom so if the teacher is ever unsure of a product or if it is not safe in the classroom. It’s full of safe goodies that Chloe can pick out whatever she wants. She also knows that if for some reason a friend wants to give her a piece of candy or something that she can’t have, when she gets home mommy’s gonna make her something even better we’ll get something from the store.

Chloe: “Or I just don’t take the piece of candy or whatever it is that my friend gives me.”

The most important advice I could give another parent is to always have the epinephrine with them, to make sure your child is included in everything they can be included in, and to make sure that your child is an advocate for themselves. It’s really become such a great thing for her because she has become so strong and incredible.

Chloe: “I ate 37 peanuts and I didn’t have a reaction. And peanuts are yummy, and I could have all kinds of treats on Halloween, and I’m having a party on October 1st so I hope you come.”