Allergist Interview: Dr. Caplan on Dreaming Big with Asthma
This month, we learned a lot from our interview with Dr. Eric Caplan of Colorado Springs Allergy and Asthma Clinic. Without further ado, let's hear what he had to say.
Please tell me a little bit about yourself and your history as an allergist.
"I am from Colorado Springs, and trained in medicine at the University of Virginia. I completed my residency at the University of Indiana in Indianapolis and then attended the Medical College of Georgia for my Allergy and Immunology Fellowship. I am a board certified allergist and have been working in private practice for over seven years."
"I've had allergies and asthma since I was two years old. They were bad enough that even though my mother was an emergency room physician, she was smart enough to take me to an allergist. I saw Dr. Jerry Buckley. He really changed my life."
"At the time he treated me, a lot of people with asthma were advised to stay inside and not exert themselves. But Dr. Buckley worked together with me to get my symptoms under control so I could do the things I wanted to do. He was very influential in getting me where I am today."
How big is your practice? Is there a particular type of allergy or treatment your practice specializes in?
"The practice consists of me and one other partner, who has been in town almost 30 years. In total, we see around 10,000 patients. We specialize in asthma and allergy, and we do see a lot of children because we were both trained in pediatrics. We do see adults, but we have a special place in our hearts for kids."
What do you love about your job?
"I love to change my patients' lives, like my allergist changed mine when I was a child. Being an allergist is a great, rewarding specialty, especially treating kids with asthma who had been not able to perform. Then, having their parents come back and say they have a brand new kid who can play with other kids on the playground rather than being at the doctor all the time."
"I really love the impact that we can have on lives, especially those with asthma. Effecting a change so these children can live the life they want without constantly worrying about breathing, needing their inhalers, and having an emergency room nearby all the time is extremely rewarding. I feel like I'm helping to give people their lives back!"
If you could suggest one thing for your patients what would it be?
"For my asthma patients, it would be to do the things they want to do, to try the things they want to try. (The two exceptions to this would be scuba diving and military service, which can be tricky with asthma.) Fifteen to twenty percent of Olympic athletes, especially in winter sports, have asthma. There are also many football players with asthma in the NFL. So dream big. It's up to us to work together to not let asthma stand in the way."
"For those with allergies, my advice would be to find out what you're allergic to so that environmental control can be implemented effectively. You have to know what you're allergic to before you can avoid it. Have a skin test and/or a blood test."
What is your favorite allergy relief product?
"I like true HEPA air purifiers. In Colorado, because of low humidity, we don't have as many dust mite issues as other places in the country, so we don't focus too much on that. But getting pets out of the bedroom and placing a HEPA air purifier in there makes a significant difference in most patients' allergies. We also frequently recommend nasal saline irrigation."
Where do you see allergy treatment going in the near future? In the distant future?
"There are certainly some exciting developments in the field of desensitization therapy, such as allergy shots. Recombinant allergy shots show promise for providing a treatment regime consisting of a short series of shots that would keep patients symptom-free for as long as a couple of years. Hopefully this is the wave of the future."
"Treating allergies naturally through desensitization gets to the root of the problem rather than just alleviating symptoms. Current allergy shots are excellent, but it's not so convenient to come in once a week or even once a month for four or five years."
Is there anything else you'd like to add or discuss?
"It's important for people who are concerned about their allergies to make sure they see a board certified allergist. There isn't so much regulation about who is allowed to treat allergies and many who aren't board certified offer allergy treatment."
"Patients need to know there's a difference. Board certified allergists complete a fellowship program that's two or three years long and publish research in the field of allergy, asthma, and immunology. They also take a national board exam. Overall, they receive a significant amount of specialized training."