Allergist Interview: Dr. Keith Lenchner
|This month we sat down and spoke with Dr. Keith Lenchner, an allergist at Atlanta Allergy and Asthma Clinic located on Peachtree Road in Atlanta, GA.|
Is there a particular type of allergy or treatment your practice specializes in?
"I've been an allergist in Atlanta for almost 8 years and I am now a partner in the Atlanta Allergy and Asthma Clinic, one of the largest allergy centers in the United States. I completed a residency in internal medicine at Northwestern in Chicago and stayed there to complete a two-year allergy fellowship. I see children and adults in our Buckhead and Powers Ferry offices. Now, I live in Brookhaven with my wife Kathy who is a heart failure nurse practitioner at St. Joseph's Hospital.
"Our practice has 19 offices in the metro Atlanta area and, at one point, we saw more new patients than any other allergy practice in the country. We treat patients of all ages for the full range of allergic disease, from yellow jacket anaphylaxis to allergic rhinitis to asthma to chronic sinusitis to drug allergy, to name a few."
What do you love about your job?
"If I had to do it all over again, I'd still choose allergy-immunology as my medical specialty. Generally, my patients are healthy, but their quality of life is diminished by some kind of allergic process like allergic rhinitis or asthma or hives or eczema or recurrent sinus infections that I have the training to address. I love my job because I can help my patients overcome these disorders in most cases. But we haven't figured it all out yet, so allergy-immunology provides a never ending stream of new info, new treatments, and new diagnosis that keep me on my toes. Frankly, our understanding of the immune system is probably in its infancy."
If you could suggest one thing for your patients what would it be?
"My advice to my patients would be to take responsibility for your healthcare and to always ask questions when you don't understand what your doctors or nurses are telling you. Frankly, we should always ask questions about anything we don't understand. But medicine is complex and the healthcare community has a responsibility to explain in simple, easy-to-understand terms what is going on with you. Don't assume because you don't understand something, that you're not smart enough. If you don't understand, then someone hasn't taught you well enough."
What is your favorite allergy relief product?
"I don't have any one favorite non-drug, allergy relief product as different products are the "favorite" and most effective for different patients, depending on that patient's clinical situation. Patients with serious nasal and lung symptoms around their pet might need to consider buying a HEPA filter or keeping Fluffy outside their bedroom or just outside. Patients with mold allergy and indoor mold exposure might need to buy a bleach solution to kill visible mold or take more aggressive measures to eliminate the source of mold. That said, dust mite allergy is probably the most common perennial allergen we find when skin testing patients for their nasal or pulmonary allergies, and we always recommend dust mite covers for their pillows, mattresses, and box springs in addition to washing their sheets in high heat once a week and keeping indoor humidity levels below 50. For patients with nasal allergies, nasal irrigation with salt water is also a useful tool."
Where do you see allergy treatment going in the near future? In the distant future?
"In the near future pharmaceutical companies will try to combine several current asthma and allergy medicines into single products which, frankly, will only offer small gains in our fight against allergic disease. A new nasal, nonaqueous, "dry" nasal steroid will be coming which may make that form of therapy more tolerable to a subset of patients. Sublingual allergy drops and oral allergy tablets will be approved by the FDA at some point, but timing and clinical applicability is uncertain. These oral tablets that target individual allergens like grass pollen have shown effectiveness in studies but don't fully address the majority of our allergic patients in the United States who have allergies to multiple allergens including pollens, dust mites, pets, and mold."