The weather has teased us this year with early glimpses of spring doused by fierce wind and rain. For those who suffer from allergies and asthma, the challenge started early with trees and plants in full bloom. As we move through the season, 35 million Americans will experience allergies.
Mercy Folsom affiliated board certified allergist, Asha K. Desai, M.D., has answers to questions commonly asked by patients she sees.
My son, who has reactive airway, was running the other day at PE. It was windy and he had difficulty breathing and it triggered a cough. What can I do to help him?
Allergy symptoms tend to be particularly high on breezy days when the wind picks up pollen and carries it through the air. It is not uncommon for this to trigger reactive airway or asthma in children and adults.
My best recommendation is to limit the time spent outdoors. Also, there are controller medications that can be used during the season, as well as inhalers to prevent difficulty breathing and episodes of coughing. Both can be prescribed by your doctor to best meet your son’s needs.
I love to spend time in the garden, but inevitably this time of year I come in sneezing with itchy eyes. Your recommendation?
When pollen grains get into the nose of someone who’s allergic, they send the immune system into overdrive. The immune system, mistakenly seeing the pollen as foreign invaders, releases antibodies — substances that normally identify and attack bacteria, viruses, and other illness-causing organisms. The allergens combine with the antibodies, which leads to the release of chemicals including histamines into the blood. Histamines trigger the runny nose, itchy eyes and other symptoms of allergies.
The outdoor air is most heavily saturated with pollens and molds between 5 and 10 a.m., so outdoor activity should be avoided during these times. One can take an oral antihistamine about an hour before working outside and that may help control the symptoms. You will see folks wearing masks to filter the air. Also, showering, washing your hair and clothing that bears the pollen when you come in doors is a good idea.
I have read about alternatives to antihistamines, which make me tired. Your recommendation?
Prior to the arrival of the allergy season and to be continued during the season, there are non-sedating antihistamines available over the counter and your doctor can prescribe nasal sprays. If none of these measures work, then it would help to be evaluated by an allergist to find out what your significant allergens are. If the avoidance and the medications do not work, then allergy shots may help.
How do I best keep track of the pollen count?
Weather forecasts on your local broadcast stations, in your local newspapers and online carry the pollen count for your area.