Dr. George H. Livermore, surgeon and Ferguson Medical Group's ear, nose and throat specialist, has been practicing in Sikeston for almost two years but only decided to add an allergy program about a year ago due to the need for one.
Livermore found many patients were still suffering even after having a sinus surgery.
"I've had a significant amount of patients who were frustrated," he said. "I see a lot of people who have chronic sinus infections and allergies are often the root of the problem."
Livermore explained: "The lining of the nose and sinuses gets swollen by a lot of different problems, one of them being allergens."
Sinus problems can also stem from viral infections, such as the common cold, which can then lead to sinus infection or irritants such as smoke and pollution.
For those patients who do owe their sinus problems to allergies, there is no general allergist in the immediate area.
While offering an allergy program out of his office is a first for Livermore, "it's a common thing for ENTs to do."
General allergists and ENTs tend to go about things in slightly different ways, he explained.
General allergists generally use the familiar skin test in which multiple pin pricks with different allergens are used on a patient's back. As for ENTs, "we do a blood test which is called 'RAST.'"
"It actually measures the immune component of the blood for specific allergens such as cat, dog, dust mite," he continued. "It will give us a number on a scale to show how allergic you are to those things."
ENTs and general allergist may debate the merits of the two systems, but for the layman, "there's really no difference - it's just two different ways of testing."
Livermore said in some instances he will do skin tests on a patient's shoulder to refine a patient's treatment.
Once a patient's allergies are identified and their severity determined, they can be treated using immunotherapy.
"Immunotherapy is your classic allergy shots," Livermore said. "You are taking a little bit of that allergen and putting it under the skin - it's kind of like getting your body used to it."
The treatment starts with two shots per week for the first six weeks. Maintenance therapy follows with one allergy shot per week.
The shots can either be given at Livermore's office or can be sent to a patient's regular doctor.
The goal is to get the patient to the point where they are being injected with concentrates from allergy labs which is known as "maximal therapy."
This can take between about a month to a year. "It depends on how allergic you are," Livermore said.
Maximal therapy usually continues for about a year.
Livermore said so far, about 85 percent of his patients that have begun taking allergy shots are happy with the results. "Nobody likes coming in and getting a shot, but they're happy enough with the relief they're getting to do it," he said.
The treatment is covered by Medicaid, by most insurance carriers, and is partially covered by Medicare, according to Livermore. His office also has a plan for those who have to pay for the treatment out-of-pocket. "We'll work with people," he said.
Livermore was trained in the medical profession in the U.S. Army, graduating from medical school at the Uniform Services University of Health Sciences at Bethesda, Md. After completing 16 years of service in the Army, Livermore practiced medicine in southeast Georgia beginning in 1997.
Then in 2002, he joined a practice in Memphis working mostly at Le Bonhuer Children's Hospital.
He came to Sikeston and joined FMG in November of 2003. "I decided I wanted to go back to a small town," Livermore said.