Allergy season is here, pollen counts rising

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Temperatures are rising, and area residents are experiencing symptoms associated with seasonal allergies.


Laura Dziadzio, a Carilion Clinic pediatric allergist and assistant professor at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, says springtime is the worst allergy season for many people because at the start of spring, trees pollinate.

“We will begin to notice pollen on cars and floating through the air, which is a marker for the microscopic pollen which causes the allergy,” she said

As a pediatric allergist, Dziadzio said she encourages people to get out and be active, discouraging patients from staying inside when the weather is finally warm again. She said there are medications that can help control symptoms.

Antihistamines can help with itching and sneezing; nasal steroids, which work best if used regularly, can help with nasal congestion and a runny nose; antihistamine eye drops can minimize itchy, red, watery eyes; nasal saline spray can help wash away pollen that may be triggering symptoms.

Though many medications are now over-the-counter, Dziadzio said if they do not adequately control symptoms, or patients experience side effects, she recommends speaking with your healthcare provider.  Patients may also benefit from allergy testing, prescription medications, or immunotherapy, she said.

“Allergy shots also remain an option, and more recently oral immunotherapy for grass and ragweed pollen. Other allergens are undergoing study and potential approval by the FDA for oral immunotherapy as well.”

Pets and dust mite are the most common indoor allergens, and the allergist said there are some molds that may trigger symptoms as well.

“Cat dander, in particular, is a bad player.  It’s quite sticky, and even after finding the family cat a new home, it can take up to six months for the allergen to reach baseline low levels.  Therefore, especially with cats, medical management for nasal symptoms including antihistamines, nasal sprays, allergy shots, may be most effective, apart from rehoming the pet.  If patients also have asthma, I lean toward finding a new home for the pet,” she said.

Dust mites are also a problem.

“Dust mites eat our dead skin and are in high concentrations where we shed a lot of skin like our beds and pillow.  There are encasements that may minimize exposure.  We try to have children keep stuffed animals on the bed to a minimum.  Washing bedding in hot water can be helpful, along with keeping the humidity down,” Dziadzio said.
Also, remediating any mold problems and keeping the humidity down as well can help with any mold problems.

There are some home allergy remedies that experts do consider reliable including the idea of locally produced honey

Dziadzio admits there aren’t great studies about local honey, but some of her patients do use it.

“Spicy foods may help clear the sinuses whatever the cause of congestion.  Anything the can wash out an allergic trigger may be helpful- people can uses nasal saline spray, sinus rinses or even take a shower,” she said.

Meteorologist Jeff Haniewich with WSLS-TV said right now, the main allergens are oak, juniper, and maple, although grass is pretty high too.

“Things should improve briefly after rain, but it won’t take very long for those allergens to increase again because of the time of year,” he pointed out.

Dziadzio agreed it’s hard to predict how pollen season will turn out.  “Historically in Roanoke, spring tree season is typically worse for our patients.  This will be winding down in the next few weeks to be followed by grass season (which is just starting) and weed season from mid-August until the first frost,” she concluded.

For more information on dealing with spring and summer allergies, contact your family doctor or allergist.