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Allergy season is projected to be more intense this year


Storms bring heavier vegetation, pollen increase

By Terry Kanakri | Special to Our Weekly

As California experienced prolonged heavy rains this winter,  health officials are projecting a more intense allergy season due to an anticipated explosion of vegetation and an increase in airborne pollen that promise to result in a more intense allergy season this year.

As many people will welcome spring on Tuesday, March 19, with feelings of renewal, new beginnings, budding leaves, blooming flowers, they will be less intent in welcoming – yes – those dreadful allergies, which are likely to be more difficult and bothersome.

“It’s fairly certain that things are likely to get worse before they get better, mainly due to the weather conditions we’ve experienced that will result in more pollen in the air,” said Dr. Salima Thobani, an allergy, asthma and immunology physician with Kaiser Permanente Southern California.

According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, more than 50 million Americans experience various types of allergies each year. Additionally, allergies are the sixth leading cause of chronic illness in the U.S.

With the arrival of spring, Dr. Thobani noted allergies are likely to increase as the weather gets warmer and drier. That’s because trees, grasses and weeds will release tiny grains into the air to fertilize other plants, and as we breathe them in, those who have allergies are likely to suffer, she explained.

If you suffer from outdoor seasonal allergies, Dr. Thobani recommended taking certain actions to decrease your symptoms:

Avoid spending too much time outdoors when pollen counts are high. (You can check local counts online.)

Close windows and stay indoors during pollen season as much as possible, especially early morning and late afternoon. 

Keep car windows closed when driving.

After spending time outdoors, change your clothes.  Bathe before going to bed to wash pollens away.

Pollen is normally worse in the morning or early afternoon and on windy days, so if you must be outside, calm evenings may be best.

Limit outdoor activities on hot and windy days.

 Consider buying a HEPA (high efficiency particulate) air filter to clean the indoor air of any airborne allergy triggers in your home (like pollen, airborne dust, airborne animal dander.)

 Try to keep shoes out of the bedroom, ideally outside of home.

Don’t hang clothing outdoors to dry; pollen may cling to towels and sheets.

If you struggle with eye symptoms due to seasonal allergic reactions, Dr. Thobani recommended that you:

·Not rub your eyes, as rubbing can cause mechanical mast cell degranulation.

·Use cool compresses as they can help reduce eyelid edema.

·Use refrigerated tears that can help to dilute and remove allergen.

·Wear glasses or sunglasses when outdoors to minimize the amount of pollen getting into your eyes.

Although there’s no cure for seasonal allergies, Dr. Thobani noted there are several medications, including antihistamines and nasal steroids, which can provide relief and help you breathe a little easier. Over the counter antihistamines that can be effective include loratadine, fexofenadine, or cetirizine.

She advised those with allergies to take their 24-hour allergy medication before going to bed to maximize the effect when they need it the most.

“That’s because allergy symptoms – such as a runny nose, weepy eyes and sneezing – typically peak in the morning hours,” she explained.

If you have a history of moderate or more severe allergy symptoms, Dr. Thobani recommended that you start a steroid nasal spray and continue it through the allergy season. These medicines are available over the counter without a need for a prescription, and include fluticasone or triamcinolone.

Terry Kanakri is a senior media relations specialist with Kaiser Permanente