Apr 072013


By Ginger Livingston

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Experts warn pollen season is kicking into high gear, so break out the antihistamines, allergy sufferers.

Next week’s warmer temperatures — highs will reach the upper 70s starting Monday — will unleash clouds of oak, juniper and birch pollen which will likely start a flood of runny noses and itchy eyes.

Two local doctors said despite cooler than normal temperatures, allergy sufferers are coming to them in increasing numbers.

“Trees have two signals in knowing it’s spring, one is temperature but the other is day length,” Dr. Paul Mehlhop with The Allergy Center said.

“The trees are going to pollinate based on a combination of those two factors,” he said. “If the day length is long enough, even if it’s on the cool side, the pollen is going to be released.”

Pine pollen leaves everything with a yellow-green coating, but it is actually oak pollen that triggers spring allergies in local people, Mehlhop said. They just happen to release at the same time.

“Oak pollen is very small and it can travel for miles,” Dr. Jonathon Firnhaber, residency program director for family medicine with East Carolina University’s Brody School of Medicine said. “For people who have an oak tree and wonder if they should cut it down, the pollen they are breathing could come from mile away. There’s no need to cut down the oak tree in their yard.”

Firnhaber said he has been seeing allergy patients for several weeks along with people with colds who thought they were suffering from allergies.

“With allergies, one of the hallmark changes is itching,” Firnhaber said. “You start seeing itchy noses, itchy eyes, itchy throat, people just get itchy. With a cold you’ll see more body aches, headaches, more sore throats.”

Most allergy sufferers get through the season with little more than the itchy symptoms, if a person’s nasal passages become stuffy and stay stuffy bacteria can become a sinus infection, Firnhaber said.

People who start wheezing, experiencing shortness of breath or develop a fever should see a doctor.

People can combat their allergy symptoms by keeping their windows closed and running air conditioning which cleans and recirculates the air, Mehlhop said.

“If you have a lot of sensitivity to pollen, if you’re going to be outside a long time, shower when you come back in to get the pollen out of your hair,” Mehlhop said.

He also recommends taking an over-the-counter antihistamine before spending a lot of time outdoors.

Over-the-counter saline sprays are good for clearing allergens from the nose, he said. Most allergy sufferers successfully can treat their symptoms with over-the-counter medications, the doctors said.

“For most people we recommend one of the second generation antihistamines because they cause less drowsiness and have fewer side effects,” Firnhaber said. Medicines containing loratadine and cetirizine, which are available in brand name and generic versions, are among the best, he said.

A person who needs stronger treatment might consider a prescription nasal steroid such as nasal fluticasone, which has a generic version, Mehlhop said.

Contact Ginger Livingston at glivingston@reflector.com or 252-329-9570.

via The Daily Reflector.


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