According to the Centers for Disease Control, 20% of Americans suffer from one or more allergies including environmental, food, medicine, and insect-related allergies. Additional data show that allergies limit activities for more than 40% of children and account for more than 17 million outpatient office visits annually, and that food allergies cause 30,000 visits to the emergency room each year.
The statistics show why it is important to see an allergist. Dr. Debora Geller, who received her medical degree from the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, completed her residency in General Pediatrics at Upstate Medical University and fellowship in Allergy and Immunology at SUNY Buffalo Children’s Hospital, recently opened her own practice in Emerson. Dr. Geller is board certified by the American Board of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology and is a member of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, and the Joint Council of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology. She is also the recipient of the Gilbert B. Forbes Prize in Pediatrics and the Department of Pediatrics Award for Excellence in Teaching.
She decided to open her own practice to be more available to her family and three children and to provide patients with a more personalized doctor/patient experience. That experience typically starts after individuals notice symptoms in themselves or in their family members. Patients may bring those symptoms to the attention of their general practitioner who then may refer them to an allergist for an in-depth evaluation. “You try to get down to the nitty-gritty and find out exactly what someone is allergic to in order to make sure they avoid those triggers,” Dr. Geller said.
After a specific allergy is pinpointed, Dr. Geller spends a lot of time educating her patients about trigger avoidance and prevention. This is important because not all potential triggers are immediately obvious. As an example of what that means, Dr. Geller described a patient with severe pollen allergies whose bed sheets were hung outside to dry, not realizing that they were being coated with pollen. With the correct education, the child’s parents could easily avoid such an exposure.
Allergies, regardless of type, can develop at any point in an individual’s life and can wax and wane. In fact, 20% of those diagnosed with a peanut allergy may outgrow it. Because of this, Dr. Geller said, allergies require follow-up and monitoring.
When it comes to seasonal allergies, Dr. Geller said that “there are options on treatment and there are quality medicines both by prescription and over the counter so that patients do not have to feel miserable.”
Seasonal pollen allergies can sometimes translate to “food” allergies, specifically with fresh fruit and vegetables. This is called oral allergy syndrome or fruit pollen syndrome. Individuals may present with mild oral itching or irritation or, rarely, more severe symptoms. Usually, such individuals may safely eat the produce in its cooked form because the heating process denatures the allergen.
Symptoms of environmental allergies may present as cold-like symptoms that linger: snoring, mouth breathing, recurrent sinus infections, and eczema, or the more typical “hay fever” symptoms. Allergies can present with “a spectrum of symptoms, and they’re not all as obvious as in the typical springtime symptoms.”
In addition, many creams and lotions contain ingredients to which individuals may be allergic. Extensive education, a process that is important to Dr. Geller, is something that can help people learn to avoid those items.
Dr. Debora Geller sees patients on Wednesdays and Fridays with late hours on Wednesday. She shares the office space with her husband, Dr. Bradley Geller, an ophthalmologist. For more information on Dr. Geller or her practice, call (201) 265-7515 or visit www.bergenallergydoctor.com.