While pollen is what helps Mother Nature plant its seeds, it isn’t so good for those who suffer from allergies.
Sufferers everywhere experience stuffy noses, puffy eyes and sinus troubles, says Pediatrician Dr. Michael Ulich.
“With the tree pollen, weeds, and mild winter we had, it’s all come at once,” he says. “People who get seasonal allergies usually wait until it’s too late.”
He says allergy sufferers need to start taking allergy medication, such as Zyrtec, Claratin or Allegra, before the season hits.
“The key is to know your season and start early,” he said. “Take it every day, but on bad days, you can usually take extra, and then go back to taking your normal allergy medication. If you have allergies with chronic medical problems like asthma or chronic sinusitis, I recommend starting allergy medicine early.”
Ulich also says alcohol plays a part in allergy symptoms as it weakens the immune system.
“You’ll see people who don’t have bad allergies and for example, if it’s crawfish season, they may drink a little beer and it makes their allergies worse,” he said. “But alcohol could weaken the immune system, allowing the allergies to flare up.”
A new treatment is available where results are showing a high success rate. Ulich says he performs allergy testing, either by blood or skin, for children and sometimes even adults. Sublingual therapy, just a drop of liquid under the tongue, is showing a 70 to 80 percent improvement in symptoms and a 60 percent cure rate, he said.
“A lot of the kids I have, have asthma, and a lot of these kids I’ve put on this medicine, their asthma goes away,” he said. “It slowly exposes you to the allergens and it builds up your immune system to those allergies.”
The downside to the treatment is that it is not covered by health insurance. The allergy testing is covered, but not the sublingual therapy treatment. Ulich says treatment lasts for six to eight months.
He offered some ways to help alleviate allergy symptoms even if a person is on allergy medication.
n He says it is important to change the air filters in homes at least three to four times per year, more often if the allergy season is really bad. He says it is a good idea to change the air filter right after Christmas, or before allergy season. He also recommends a Hepa filter that will help pull allergens out of the air inside the home.
“If you can, put it in the room you spend the most time in,” he said.
He also suggests:
n Avoid drinking, smoking and “control the air inside your home as best you can.”
n For those who have pets, he sometimes suggests removing them from inside the house for the duration of allergy season.
“You have two antigens in the house, and it can make it even worse,” he said.
n If possible, when people get off work, they need to take a shower and put their laundry in the washing machine immediately. Do not leave them in the laundry basket as the pollen will get mixed in with the other laundry.
n Use a good saline nasal rinse on the bad days; it helps relieve those allergy symptoms. Some physicians recommend allergy nasal spray every day, he said.
“Catch it, start your medicine early and take measures to control your environment,” he said, “and hopefully, that will help you have a more pleasant spring and keep you out of the doctor’s office.”