No matter what time of year it is, dealing with allergies can be stressful. Whether it’s mild symptoms like itchy, watery eyes or dangerous reactions like anaphylaxis, Nikki Patel, M.D., has dedicated her career to helping patients find relief.
As a specialist in allergy and immunology at Sanford Health, Dr. Patel helps both children and adults effectively manage their allergies, asthma or immune system conditions. Dr. Patel knows the benefits of allergy treatments firsthand. She suffered from environmental allergies at a young age.
“I went on allergy shots when I was about five years old, and it really changed my quality of life,” Dr. Patel said. “Now I don’t need medications or have any symptoms, even well into adulthood.”
Myth 1: Allergies are meant to be suffered through
Dr. Patel is adamant that allergy symptoms are not meant to be a long-term burden on quality of life.
“I can’t tell you how often I get the answer, ‘My whole life,’ when I ask patients how long their allergies have been bothering them,” Dr. Patel said. “A common misconception people have is that it’s just something that’s meant to be suffered through — no matter how irritating or bothersome the symptoms.”
Dr. Patel and her team at the Sanford 32nd & Ellis Clinic in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, combat that misconception every day with an array of allergy tests and treatments they employ to help patients overcome their symptoms.
“It’s not something where one treatment fits every patient. We have a lot of prescription medications and nasal sprays that we can use in combination with over-the-counter medicines to help provide relief,” Dr. Patel said. “We also offer asthma treatments including medications and inhalers if a patient’s allergies affect their breathing.”
Myth 2: Allergy testing requires needles
The first step in finding relief from symptoms is allergy testing, a process that has a bit of an undeserved reputation.
“People get scared when they hear about allergy testing because it used to be done with needles,” Dr. Patel said. “But now the testing is actually done with a plastic-tipped device that isn’t painful at all.”
If medications can’t control symptoms well, allergy shots are often the next step in treatment.
“Allergy medicines treat symptoms, while allergy shots are a therapy that tries to prevent allergy symptoms from even happening in the first place,” Dr. Patel said. “We use proteins from the allergen a patient is allergic to and slowly build up their body’s tolerance.”
Then — whether it’s an animal or pollen or dusty environments that a patient is allergic to — with consistency, most patients start to notice a change in three to six months.
Myth 3: Allergies only start in childhood
Children can begin allergy shots around the age of five, but allergy testing can be used before then to determine what they may need to avoid. Most people start to manifest allergy symptoms at ages two and older. Still, allergies can develop at any age.
“Certain exposures and environmental changes can trigger allergies, even later in life,” Dr. Patel said. “But those reactions don’t have to make you miserable.”