Some patients say this Rockville allergist/immunologist is like a detective

The detective

A Rockville doctor on food allergies, surprising diagnoses and why some people shouldn’t get a dog

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In Her Own Words…

Deep breaths

“I had a patient and I put her on a new medication for asthma and she came in and was like, ‘I felt better the first day I took that medicine.’ She said, ‘I didn’t even realize that I couldn’t take a deep breath until I went on the medicine.’ I think so many people walk around with symptoms and they don’t even realize how bad they feel until we put them on something and they feel better.”

Dog dilemma

“I have patients who say, ‘Our family wants to get a dog, do I have a dog allergy?’ I’ll test them. And I’ll say, ‘Well, you don’t have a dog allergy but you have 10 pollen allergies, and the problem with that is you have to walk your dog outside. And then your dog’s gonna track the pollen back into your house. So you have to be really careful with that.’ ”

Connecting the dots

“Allergies are genetic. It’s been mapped to certain chromosomes. But one of the things that really fascinates me is we can see first-generation American patients with allergy. And their parents, let’s say, are from Africa or Asia. And there’s no allergy at all in the family. Yet these babies come in and they’re very allergic. And why is that? There has to be some environmental trigger. We know that there’s a gene but that gene got triggered, and what is that trigger? I think that’s the million dollar question.”

Looking for answers

“One of the toughest things is when patients come in with hives. They say, ‘There has to be something that’s causing this.’ I say, ‘I know you think that. We all think that.’ But in general it’s very hard to find a source for hives, and most patients at some point will have hives in their lifetimes, like greater than 90%. We look for answers, but it can be really hard to find a source, and I always say to my patients, ‘That’s frustrating for you and it’s frustrating for me, but we’re gonna help you.’ ”

On determination

“We have a patient who came to us for peanut OIT. His parents drove him in every other week from Capitol Hill. He was having trouble tolerating his doses. We said, ‘We’re just going to really slow your schedule down.’ I gave him the option of giving up. They said, ‘We will do whatever we can.’ It took him 2½ years to switch from eating peanut flour to peanut M&M’s. It was like giving birth that day. The mother was crying, we were crying, the nurses were crying, the grandmother was here.”

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