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Seasonal, Perennial and Environmental Allergies Program

The Massachusetts General Hospital Seasonal, Perennial and Environmental Allergies Program provides specialized care and the latest therapies to patients with rhinitis and other allergies so they can enjoy a better quality of life.

Comprehensive, Multidisciplinary Care

Ten to 30 percent of adults, and up to 40 percent of children, experience allergic rhinitis. Sometimes called hay fever, allergic rhinitis causes problems for many patients year-round—not just during spring and fall, when pollen counts are at their highest. Symptoms of allergic rhinitis include itching, sneezing, nasal congestion, runny nose and postnasal drainage. In severe cases, allergic rhinitis may be associated with asthma and sinusitis.

Patients with seasonal, perennial and environmental allergies will benefit from access to specialists whose expertise includes treating not only the symptoms of allergic rhinitis but also managing and preventing:

Our highly trained physicians understand your allergies and are dedicated to managing and mitigating the impact of symptoms on your well-being.

Although our practice focuses on adults, we also treat pediatric patients within our practic Finishe or in collaboration with specialists in Allergy and Immunology at MassGeneral Hospital for Children. This continuum of care for families, which differentiates us from other Boston hospitals, is important because allergies in adults often affect their children, too.

State-of-the-Art Care in Boston & Waltham

A full range of allergy-related services is available at Mass General's downtown Boston campus and at Mass General West in Waltham, including:

  • Expert evaluation and diagnosis by allergy specialists
  • Comprehensive allergy evaluation and testing onsite, with supplemental testing available at our Clinical Immunology Laboratory
  • Patient-specific allergen immunotherapy (allergy shots) supervised by experienced clinicians
  • A staff physician and fellow on call 24/7 for patients with urgent conditions

What to Expect

At your first appointment, you can expect a thorough evaluation by one of our specialists. To diagnose your condition, we conduct a thorough review of your medical history, including recent changes in lifestyle or habits, and exposures in your home, workplace and elsewhere. In addition to a physical examination, we may also perform:

  • Allergy skin testing to determine which allergens may be triggering your symptoms
  • Blood tests when skin testing is not appropriate
  • When necessary, breathing tests to evaluate asthma symptoms or X-ray evaluation for sinus disease

After diagnosing your problem, we tailor a treatment plan to manage your symptoms. We cover your plan in detail with you, explaining how to avoid or minimize exposure to factors that trigger your symptoms. We also may prescribe clinically proven medications, such as antihistamines and nasal sprays.

When allergen immunotherapy is recommended, we prepare customized extracts meticulously at the Mass General pharmacy. Therapy begins with shots administered weekly at the office of your choice (Boston or Waltham), building up to a monthly maintenance dose in most cases.

All injections are administered by experienced clinical practitioners. After an injection, you are required to stay at our office for 30 minutes for routine observation to ensure your safety. We monitor your treatment closely and adjust it as needed.

Expertise in Treating Regional Conditions

Our program is among the few in Boston with the resources to manage care for patients with rhinitis (sometimes called hay fever) and allergies across the spectrum, from mild to severe. Our specialists are particularly skilled at diagnosing and treating allergic conditions associated with New England's unique climate, geography, plants, animals and other factors that trigger symptoms.

We treat the complete range of allergens and irritants that affect the nose and nasal system (rhinitis) and eyes (conjunctivitis), including those categorized as:

  • Seasonal allergens: Pollens from plants and trees trigger symptoms when they become airborne, usually during spring, summer and fall.
  • Perennial allergens: These allergens occur throughout the year and include dust mites, mold, pet dander and cockroaches.
  • Environmental irritants: Substances such as chemical odors, perfumes, cigarette smoke and pollution can irritate without the presence of a specific allergy.

Our expertise extends to treating conditions that occur frequently but may be less well-known to the public, such as:

  • Non-allergic rhinitis: For many patients, symptoms of rhinitis are not caused by allergies, but rather by irritants or physical triggers. This problem can occur when patients inhale substances (e.g. air pollution, perfumes, smoke, cold/dry air) or ingest spicy foods, causing nasal blood vessels to dilate.
  • Oral allergy syndrome: Many patients with seasonal allergies experience itching or swelling in the mouth or throat when eating certain fresh fruits and vegetables. These reactions are triggered by allergens in the fruits and vegetables that are similar to pollen allergens.

When patients have allergies in combination with chronic sinusitis, we treat them in collaboration with our ear, nose and throat colleagues at the nearby Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary.

Advancing the Treatment of Allergies

The rich history of treating allergies at Mass General dates back to the founding of the Allergy Unit in 1919. In the 1960s, our researchers conducted the first controlled studies in which ragweed pollen extract was injected repeatedly to relieve ragweed symptoms. This breakthrough effort and others at Mass General have transformed how clinicians treat allergies to this day.

Today, an impressive range of allergy-related studies takes place at Mass General. Scientists in the Center for Immunology and Inflammatory Diseases conduct basic research in the mechanisms of immune-mediated inflammatory diseases. Our specialists often collaborate with the center's researchers when a patient's condition proves exceptionally difficult to diagnose. Additionally, patients can take part in clinical trials of chronic sinusitis, nasal polyps and asthma through the Allergy Clinical Research Unit.

Educating the Next Generation of Allergy Specialists

We are dedicated to preparing tomorrow's outstanding academic clinicians and basic scientists in allergy and immunology. Fellows in the Allergy and Immunology Training Program receive clinical and research training in seasonal, perennial and environmental allergies and all other major conditions. Internal medicine residents also gain exposure to allergy patients as part of their general training.

 

Allergic Rhinitis (Allergies)

Rhinitis is a reaction that occurs in the nose when airborne irritants (allergens) trigger the release of histamine. Histamine causes inflammation and fluid production in the fragile linings of nasal passages, sinuses, and eyelids.

Allergies

Allergies are among the most common heath problems, with more than 50 million people afflicted with asthma, seasonal hay fever, or other allergy-related conditions each year.

Rhinitis

Rhinitis is a reaction that occurs in the eyes, nose and throat when airborne irritants (allergens) trigger the release of histamine.

Sinusitis

Sinusitis is an infection of the sinuses near the nose. These infections usually occur after a cold or after an allergic inflammation.

The following related clinical trials and research studies are currently seeking participants at Massachusetts General Hospital. Search for clinical trials and studies in another area of interest.

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