Dr. Harold Kim
Allergist, Past President, Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology
After many years of studying and practicing in the allergy and clinical immunology field, Dr. Harold Kim shares his expertise on how Canadians and their families can combat this year’s allergy season.
For many, spring and summer mark the start of allergy season, which can be difficult for those with asthma or seasonal allergies. What are some of the solutions you typically recommend to your patients to reduce allergy and asthma flare-ups during this time?
The general approach to treating allergy symptoms is to avoid the allergens, use safe and effective medications and consider allergen immunotherapy (traditionally allergy shots) if medications are not effective. We now have some immunotherapy products that can be placed under the tongue and taken at home.
The best way to avoid outdoor allergens (like pollens), is to keep the windows closed and keep the air pure. Air conditioning may be required when it is too warm.
Many allergy sufferers still experience symptoms despite spending so much of their time indoors due to the pandemic. What are some ways Canadians can manage air quality and allergy symptoms within the home?
As noted above, if you are allergic to pollen or outdoor molds, the windows should be closed. If you have confirmed allergies to your pets, pet removal should be considered. To find out if you’re allergic to your household pet, you can get an allergy test to confirm. If you are allergic to dust mites, we recommend specific measures for avoiding dust mite allergens. Generally, filtering the air in the home is not very effective if you keep the windows open or if you have pets around that you’re allergic to. But, assuming you aren’t allergic to your pet and your windows are closed, air-purifying could be effective.
How important is both outdoor and indoor air quality in the management of allergy and asthma symptoms?
With regards to outdoor air quality, the levels of allergens including pollen and molds will have a direct effect on allergy symptoms. As noted above, any confirmed indoor allergens should be avoided as much as possible. With regards to pollution, we as allergists support improving air quality for general health. There have been some studies linking air pollution and asthma. We would recommend staying indoors with air-conditioning on if pollution levels are high and/or the temperature are high.
What are, if any, common household products that unknowingly may be contributing to allergy symptoms? What are ways we can help Canadians to combat this?
Generally, household products do not cause true allergies. The most common indoor allergens are dust mites, pets, and indoor molds. We would recommend using household products as they are designed to be used. If there are allergy symptoms with any household products, we would suggest avoiding them and discussing the issue with your doctor. A referral to an allergist may be reasonable as well.