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RX for readers: Here come autumn's allergies

One out of every five people suffers from allergy, and the prevalence increases every year.

Sitting on grass expoes people to pollen, plants
Photo by: Wikimedia commons
The autumn is coming, and for me – a 43-year-old woman who is otherwise healthy – it is the sign of more suffering from allergies, just like in the spring. My problem started just a year ago. What can I do to minimize the problem?
T.P., Rishon Lezion

Dr. Menahem Retem, an allergologist and clinical immunologist at Emek Medical Center in Afula, replies

One out of every five people suffers from allergy, and the prevalence increases every year. Trips to nature spots, national parks, open water, zoos and even the beach are often accompanied by allergic reactions, which are an unpleasant memento of the visit.

Sitting for hours on the grass and near bushes and trees exposes people to pollen and direct contact with plants that they are usually not exposed to. This can trigger an allergic reaction among those who are sensitive. Mosquito and other insect bites can do the same.

The reaction can easily be diagnosed; the symptoms are a chronic runny nose, shortness of breath, repeated and prolonged headaches, disrupted sleep, asthma, sinusitis, infectious inflammation, redness of skin and itchy eyes.

As for what to do, first stay as far away as possible from trees, flowers, grass and bushes that spread pollen. If the symptoms are minor, go to a doctor (an allergy specialist is recommended) for secondgeneration antihistamines that are effective for 24 hours at a time and do not cause drowsiness. Some are sold even without a prescription.

If your symptoms are more serious and disrupt your daily functioning, steroidal sprays for the nose can be prescribed along with antihistamines for the nose and eyes.

If these don’t produce significant relief, you can be immunized against allergens with essences so the body becomes used to what you are allergic to and will no longer react.

If you suffer from attacks of coughing, asthma or shortness of breath, you will need inhalers for immediate relief. For chronic asthma, you doctor will give you steroidal spray inhalers that expand the bronchi in the lungs.

My grandson has suffered from a speech impediment (it’s difficult for me to describe) since childhood but nothing was ever seriously done about it. He did go to a speech therapist once, but she thought that it was enough to get him to pronounce certain Hebrew letters properly and sent him away after a month of sessions.

The bottom line is that his speech both in English and Hebrew makes people think that he is strange. But he is not! He is bright and clever. Now 20, he has done well in the army.

I would like to know if it’s too late to deal with his problem. If not, how does one go about finding a reputable and recommended speech therapist rather than just choosing one at random from a list? He lives in the Sharon area and can also get to Tel Aviv but not to Jerusalem. Who is qualified to give treatment? How is it done? Is the treatment covered by the health funds? A.L., via email


Cahtia Adelman, deputy director of the speech and hearing center at Hadassah University Medical Center at Jerusalem’s Ein Kerem and a veteran speech therapist, comments:


In general, it’s never too late to undergo speech therapy. We have successfully treated people over age 50. Treatment of speech problems can be accomplished at any age.

Children usually catch on faster, and a problem is probably more deeply entrenched in adults. But older people have more cognitive ability and more motivation to improve, so it could take less time to treat speech problems in adults. Usually, however, it takes more time.

You don’t describe exactly what speech problem your grandson has. It could be any of a number of problems – difficulty with motor control or planning or an essential or peripheral problem with a muscle involved in speech. It could even be a voice problem. Thus he would need a serious evaluation by an expert speech therapist. Therapy averages around 20 sessions, but it could require more (or fewer) than that.

If he cannot get to Jerusalem for an evaluation and treatment (even though we have an excellent center), I recommend the speech therapy and hearing centers at Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center and Sheba Medical Center in the center of the country.

There are now 1,500 registered speech therapists in the country. Speech therapy has been taught at Sheba since the 1960s, but new schools have opened at Hadassah Academic College, the University of Haifa, the Kiryat Ono Academic College and Ariel University Center. Therapists, most of whom are women, have first, second and even third academic degrees in the field.

Treatment usually involves one-on-one speech exercises. For children, computerized games are sometimes used. Years ago, speech therapists who had immigrated from Russia used to put metal objects in the mouth that look like objects of torture to make the mouth take the proper shape, but these are not used anymore.

Treatments, at least for children, are covered by health funds, but you will have to consult your health fund to find out whether your grandson’s will be covered and how many sessions will be paid for.

When a patient needs more than the health fund initially allows, I ask for more, and usually I am not turned down.

Rx for Readers welcomes queries from readers about medical problems. Experts will answer those we find most interesting. Write Rx for Readers, The Jerusalem Post, POB 81, Jerusalem 91000, fax your question to Judy Siegel-Itzkovich at (02) 538-9527, or e-mail it to jsiegel@jpost.com, giving your initials, age and place of residence.


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