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Allergy sufferers have treatment options

September 03, 2007|By JENNIFER FITCH

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The otolaryngology team at Franklin County Ear, Nose and Throat in Chambersburg specializes in inhalant allergies like pollen, grass and trees. Soon, with autumn's arrival, it expects to help patients combat ragweed allergies, and there are plenty of those patients.

"Of Americans who are allergic to pollen-producing plants, 75 percent are allergic to ragweed," according to information from the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.

Many patients visit Franklin County Ear, Nose and Throat for symptoms such as ear and sinus pressure, not realizing they can be connected to allergies, said Dr. John C. Chang, one of three physicians in the year-old practice. Different types of tests provide clues for the doctors.

"We answer two questions: Are they allergic to X? How allergic to X are they?" Chang said.

Allergy sufferers are taught to avoid triggers; they also can be set up with medications, shots or a combination of both, Chang said.

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He's following research on sublingual immunotherapy, which allows patients to forgo shots in favor of drops being placed under their tongues. The method is popular in Europe, but not yet approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

"The FDA is still doing studies about it," Chang said.

So, for now, patients like Eric Yeckley go to the Keystone Health Pavilion office on Norland Avenue for their shots.

Yeckley, of Chambersburg, has been on shots (or "immunotherapy") for a year. The school teacher jokes that he's allergic to "everything but grass."

"Name a tree, I'm allergic to it. Name a pollen, I'm allergic to it. Cats, dogs, molds and mildews," Yeckley said.

Yeckley used to carry boxes of tissues with him when coaching football, and he suffered from continuous sinus infections.

He now reports being down to two sinus infections a year and has gone from two shots a week to one.

"Now I can go out, enjoy myself and enjoy the kids again," he said.

The injections help Yeckley tolerate his allergies' triggers.

"The goal here of immunotherapy is to train your body or essentially expose your body to very minute amounts of that allergen. Over time, your body can develop immunity to that allergen," Chang said.

Side effects are typically minimal, but the doctors require that all shots be done in the office due to the slight risk of anaphylactic shock, a life-threatening allergic reaction, Chang said.

Sixty-five people are on the office's roster for regular shots, according to Dusty Poe, the allergy coordinator for Franklin County Ear, Nose and Throat.

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