With nearly 30 years of expertise in allergy and asthma medicine—both traditional and functional medicine—Dr. Z knows what he’s talking about. In his book, Allergy Free with Dr. Z: Understanding Allergies, Asthma, and Much, Much More, Dr. Z helps you better understand your allergies or asthma in a quick, easy-to-read format that gets right to the point. He describes the 3 essential steps you can take to reduce symptoms, feel better, and ultimately improve your quality of life. Here’s a look at Dr. Z’s 3 steps to living allergy-free.
Step 1 – Treat the cause, not just the symptom
If you find you’re itching, there could be any number of reasons: anxiety, dry skin, food allergies, bedbugs, you name it. Instead of asking the question “how do I make it stop?” you should be asking “why am I itchy?” Because you can’t fix a problem if you don’t know what the problem is. It sounds pretty simple and obvious, but many times in traditional medicine the answer to a problem is to get rid of the symptoms, not the underlying cause.
Typically, when you have a symptom like itching, you begin by seeing your primary care doctor, or in some cases you may see a specialist like a dermatologist (for itchiness, for example). Often the treatment is to prescribe an anti-itch medication and hope for the best. Sometimes these creams work for a short period of time, but if the itching is because of an allergy, it will usually come back.
It’s at this point patients often come to see an allergist like Dr. Z. “My first rule when I treat any patient is the same as the first rule of battle: Know thine enemy,” says Dr. Z. “If you’re coughing, sneezing, wheezing, or itching, then figure out why your body is doing those things—and instead of taking a drug to mask the discomfort, determine the root cause of it. It may take a bit more work, but it’s always worth the extra effort.” This is the essence of Dr. Z’s step 1.
Step 2 – Reduce and anticipate your exposure to allergens
When you consult Dr. Z or one of our other dedicated practitioners, we begin by asking some questions about your symptoms, such as “when did the itching start?” and “have there been any changes in your life recently—for example, changes in your diet, traveling, moving to a new house, or getting a pet?”
Based on this consultation, we are often able to narrow down some possibly culprits and we can do some skin or blood testing to determine the cause. “If you’re itchy because of an allergy, the only way to stop itching is to find a way to treat that allergy,” says Dr. Z. When it comes to treatment, the first step is to reduce exposure to whatever it is you’re allergic to.
According to Dr. Z, if you’re allergic to dogs, for example, try not to spend so much time around them. Keep your house clean, brush your dog daily outside, make some rooms off-limits, etc. “This is probably the hardest step for people to make, but it’s also the most crucial,” he says. “You are in control of your exposure to allergens—and the less you expose yourself, the better you will feel.”
Step 3 – Increase your tolerance to allergens
At AAPRI, the third step in allergy treatment is to increase tolerance to specific allergens through allergy immunotherapy in the form of sublingual allergy drops. This effective therapy, which you take under the tongue once a day, works by introducing the allergen in a small, safe dosage. Over time the amount of allergen is gradually increased to allow your body to build up immunity or tolerance to the allergen.
“There are various strategies to increase tolerance, but it always begins with small, incremental steps. Increased over time, these small steps add up to a tremendous amount of relief,” says Dr. Z. AAPRI is proud to be the only practice in Rhode Island to offer sublingual allergy drops.
Breathe with Dr. Z’s 3
By following these 3 steps, Dr. Z is confident it’s possible for most people to stop sneezing, wheezing, and itching—for good! Schedule a consultation with Dr. Z or any of our dedicated team members to learn more.