Tips for allergy sufferers help alleviate suffering in peak season
BY BRAVETTA HASSELL World Scene Writer
Monday, May 21, 2012
5/21/12 at 3:32 AM
If there is anything unusual about this spring, allergy physician Dr. Tim Nickel said, it's this: It's been consistently bad.
The peak of the grass allergy season is typically mid-May, but it started a few weeks early this year, he said. The same goes for tree pollen season, typically occurring in February, March and April, which also began early.
"This has been an early and aggressive spring," Nickel said.
Itchy red eyes. Runny or stuffy nose. Sneezing, coughing. Rashes. Allergies can be a big bout with discomfort for sufferers whether indoor or outdoor allergens are the culprits.
Treatment options vary dependent on the type of allergy, but Nickel said adopting a few housekeeping practices, combined with the appropriate medication, can reduce exposure and reaction to allergy triggers.
Homes and pollen
During the peak pollen period, if you can be indoors, stay indoors, Nickel said.
"If you're out all day, do a nasal rinse, take a shower, get that pollen off your membranes so you don't have late-phase exposure," he said.
Try to keep your living space as allergy-free as possible. That might include removing your shoes before entering your bedroom to reduce the amount of outdoor debris being tracked into areas that should be a haven for you.
During the warmer months, use your air conditioner or another cooling unit, and keep windows shut and attic fan off.
Dust and dander
A scoop of dust weighing as much as a paper clip contains as many as 19,000 dust mites, according to WebMD.com. Not too big a deal if you're not allergic to the spider-like insects found in dust, but it can be a huge problem if you are.
The microscopic critters thrive in warm and humid environments. So "take away their food and water supply and shelter," Nickel said.
That means dehumidifying your home's air to between 30 to 50 percent humidity. The Mayo Clinic recommends maintaining the home's temperature at 70 degrees to achieve this.
Dust becomes a big problem when it settles. Reservoirs - flooring, furniture and household crevices - become invisible breeding grounds for allergy triggers. Dusting hardwood floors, vacuuming carpets and wiping down smooth, easily cleanable surfaces will get rid of them. Getting rid of old carpeting will eliminate allergy reservoirs, as well.
If you have a confirmed dust allergy, consider investing in allergy-proof pillowcases and other bedding, Nickel said. Some cases are so tightly woven that dust mites can become trapped inside.
Installing as many wipeable surfaces as possible will make cleaning indoor allergens easier and ensure dust and animal dander have fewer places to collect.
One other fixture to pay attention to are your air filters, which should be cleaned or replaced regularly.
Nickel said washing your pet can help, as well.
"It can decrease allergens by 50 percent," he said.
Outdoor pets should be kept outside as much as possible. If your allergies are very severe, consider washing down your dog before it's let inside.
Homes and mold
"Only a minority of patients will have an allergy to mold," Nickel said. Reactions typically include nasal allergy symptoms, asthma and wheezing.
The mold problem is usually a problem with the water, he said. The key is to fix the source of the problem and then get rid of the mold itself.
Getting tested for allergies is highly recommended - perhaps especially so if a mold allergy is suspected, because it is linked to asthma.
In conjunction with altering your environment to reduce allergen exposure, Nickel notes two other treatments: immunotherapy and medication. He said he encourages his patients to incorporate all three into allergy treatment.
But at the end of the day, Nickel said, "the treatment is really going to be tailored to each individual's sensitivity."
For more information on allergy-proofing homes, visit tulsaworld.com/allergyproof.
Is it just a cold, or could it be allergies?
Distinguishing between allergies and symptoms of something more can be tricky. Dr. Zak Zarbock, creator of Zarbee's, a line of all-natural cough syrups, shares a couple of tips on identifying seasonal allergies.
Check your symptoms: Allergies have symptoms similar to your common cold and cough caused by viral or bacterial infections. Allergy symptoms typically include a clear runny or stuffy nose, red, itchy eyes or sore throat and cough from drainage behind the nose. Symptoms of an infection can include the nasal congestion and cough, as well, but may be associated with a fever, green or yellow nasal drainage and general achiness, Zarbock says.
Check the calendar: Do you find the same symptoms of runny nose, congestion and other symptoms cropping up around the same time of year? What's continually ailing you each time of the year may be caused by allergies, Zarbock says. Seasonal allergy sufferers typically find themselves reacting to days when pollen counts are high. These symptoms may be year round for indoor allergy sufferers allergic to such things as dust mites, insects, animal dander and mold spores.
Whatever the case, if your symptoms are interfering with your daily activities, see a doctor. Dr. Tim Nickel recommends getting an allergy test done to zero in on the problem and get the most appropriate treatment started so you can get some relief.
Original Print Headline: Suffering in spring
Bravetta Hassell 918-581-8316
CHRISTOPHER SMITH / Tulsa World file
A scoop of dust weighing as much as a paper clip contains as many as 19,000 dust mites. PRNEWSFOTO / American Asthma Foundation