In a recent blog post, Dr. Z noted the biggest misconception people have about allergies and asthma is that they just have to suffer with it—that there’s nothing they can do except take allergy medication to manage their symptoms. “The truth is that there are ways to ‘turn off’ allergies and send them into remission,” says Dr. Z. In this interview, Dr. Z shares how he’s living proof that when you treat the root cause, you can defeat the symptoms.
Q: Tell us about your experience growing up with allergies and asthma.
Dr. Z: I had really bad asthma as a kid. I was at the doctor’s office nearly every week, I was often hospitalized for asthma, I was on prednisone all of the time… I had such bad side effects from it that kids used to make fun of me because I had swollen cheeks. Colds always went to my chest, and I just missed a lot of school. As I got older, I missed out on a lot of social activities because I was always sick and I had to get taken out of sports a lot because exercise triggered my asthma.
Q: At some point things changed for you. What happened?
Dr. Z: I was fortunate enough to start seeing an allergist who was way ahead of the game. He was big on clinical studies, and he had me on treatments that weren’t available to a lot of people at the time. He is the reason I wanted to become a functional allergist.
In my twenties, I went to Colorado and my asthma improved dramatically because there weren’t any dust mites there. For the first time, I wasn’t suffering from allergies and asthma, I was running 6 miles at a time without an asthma attack, and colds didn’t go to my chest. When I moved back to New England and started my practice, I started myself on allergy shots—or allergy immunotherapy—and that got my asthma under control. Now my asthma’s in remission. I used to be allergic to dust mites, pollen, and pets—now I have a dog and a convertible!
Q: What is allergy immunotherapy and how does it work?
Dr. Z: Allergen immunotherapy comes in the form of allergy shots or allergy drops, called sublingual allergen immunotherapy because you put the drops under your tongue. Each dose contains a small amount of the allergen and it works by allowing the body to build up immunity to it over time. Ultimately, the allergy gets switched off and you no longer experience symptoms.
Q: What is the difference between allergy shots and allergy drops?
Dr. Z: Allergy shots require a trip to the doctor’s office to be administered, but the sublingual allergy drops can be taken at home. It’s a more convenient way to treat the allergies and asthma, especially with COVID concerns because it’s a home treatment.
It’s worth noting that our practice is unique in that AAPRI is the only one in Rhode Island that offers sublingual immunotherapy, which is a great option for kids and anyone with a busy lifestyle. My asthma went into remission because of the allergy shots, and now I’m on the sublingual drops for maintenance.
Q: What role has functional medicine played in your own treatment?
Dr. Z: Even after I was able to get my asthma into remission, I would still get miserable sinus infections because I had pansinusitis. Using what I’ve learned with functional medicine and the importance of maintaining a healthy microbiome, I’ve gotten the pansinusitis under better control.
Watch Dr. Z talk about his experiences growing up with asthma and how he got his condition under control.
Interested in learning more about allergen immunotherapy? Schedule a consultation with Dr. Z or any of our other dedicated team members at the office location of your choice.