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In the News

Managing Springtime Allergies

By Dr. Victor Gong, Medical Director of 75th St. & 126th St. Medical, Ocean Pines Medical & Doctors Weight Control & Wellness centers, Ocean City, MD.

Ahh, spring – the trees begin to bud, flowers bloom and birds sing as the days get warmer. These are the signs of spring most of us look forward to as winter winds down, and "spring fever" is an ailment no one minds catching. Unfortunately, spring also can mean sneezing, wheezing and watery eyes - all symptoms of seasonal allergies, or allergic rhinitis.

More than 35 million Americans suffer from allergic rhinitis, with the highest prevalence occurring among children and young adults. In fact, up to 20 percent of all school children suffer from allergies, and 80 percent of allergy sufferers experience their first symptoms before age 20.

The problem is not only frustrating for sufferers, but costly, too. In the United States alone, the total direct health expenditure for allergic rhinitis is estimated at $1.16 billion. And, nasal allergies account for 10.6 million physician office visits annually.

Unlike perennial allergy sufferers, whose symptoms are triggered by such irritants as dust mites, smoke, mold and animal dander, people with seasonal allergies experience symptoms triggered by the immune system's response to pollens. Tree and grass pollen are particularly high in spring.

If you or a family member suffers from seasonal allergies, here are some tips to make life more enjoyable during peak allergy season:

  • Your best defense against pollen is to avoid it...
  • Limit outdoor activities when pollen and mold counts are highest. Typically, grass pollen counts are highest near mid-day. Another heavy time is just before dusk.
  • Watch the weather, too. A few hours after a rain, pollen counts drop significantly. However, mold spores, which also might aggravate allergy symptoms, go into high production a few hours after it rains.
  • Dry clothes and bedding in a dryer, not outside on a clothesline where they can trap pollens.
  • If grass pollen is your nemesis, avoid mowing the lawn, which can cause allergy flare-ups.
  • Avoid irritants such as tobacco smoke, car exhaust, hair spray, insecticide sprays and laundry detergent – they can aggravate allergy symptoms.
  • Have someone who is not pollen sensitive vacuum, mop and dust often and thoroughly.
  • Wash your hands, face and hair often, especially if you spend time outside.
  • In your bedroom, where you'll inhale allergens for hours, keep windows closed and pets out.

You can temporarily snuff out the sniffles with over-the-counter drugs. antihistamines can relieve sneezing and itching; they're best taken before symptoms occur since they may block the allergic response. Decongestants can help unclog sinuses and allow for easier breathing provided you do not overuse them. Ask your pharmacist to recommend products which are least likely to produce side effects. If these drugs are ineffective, consult your primary care provider.

Most importantly, talk with you physician about how best to manage your allergy symptoms, so you can concentrate on enjoying the things you love about spring, not the things that make you sneeze.

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