Friday, 12 April 2019 19:21

Allergy season is stronger than ever

Written by Dr. Daliah Wachs
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While we’re still grappling with harsh weather, winter colds and an extended flu season, allergy season is now in full force.

Sneezing, itchy eyes, coughing, asthma flare ups, are just a few of the symptoms that can severely impede our work day and sleep.

Each year the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of  America publish their list of the hardest hit cities in terms of allergies. They base these rankings on “seasonal (Spring) pollen score, medication use (allergy) and number of allergy specialists.”

  1. McAllen, TX
  2. Jackson, MS
  3. Providence, RI
  4. Memphis, TN
  5. Springfield, MA
  6. Louisville, KY
  7. New Orleans, LA
  8. Scranton, PA
  9. Baton Rouge, LA
  10. Richmond, VA
  11. Toledo, OH
  12. Syracuse, NY
  13. Dayton, OH
  14. San Antonio, TX
  15. Little Rock, AR
  16. Buffalo, NY
  17. El Paso, TX
  18. Oklahoma City, OK
  19. Columbia, SC
  20. Knoxville, TN
  21. New York, NY
  22. Hartford, CT
  23. New Haven, CT
  24. Greenville, SC
  25. Philadelphia, PA
  26. Detroit, MI
  27. Akron, OH
  28. Wichita, KS
  29. Albany, NY
  30. Charleston, SC
  31. Fresno, CA
  32. Cleveland, OH
  33. Birmingham, AL
  34. Las Vegas, NV
  35. Greensboro, NC
  36. Winston-Salem, NC
  37. Miami, FL
  38. Augusta, GA
  39. Modesto, CA
  40. Bridgeport, CT
  41. Pittsburgh, PA
  42. Charlotte, NC
  43. Chattanooga, TN
  44. Grand Rapids, MI
  45. Dallas, TX
  46. Columbus, OH
  47. Allentown, PA
  48. Jacksonville, FL
  49. Cape Coral, FL
  50. Virginia Beach, VA
  51. St. Louis, MO
  52. Riverside, CA
  53. Tulsa, OK
  54. Orlando, FL
  55. Albuquerque, NM
  56. Houston, TX
  57. Lakeland, FL
  58. Durham, NC
  59. Tampa, FL
  60. Madison, WI
  61. Tucson, AZ
  62. Los Angeles, CA
  63. Nashville, TN
  64. Worcester, MA
  65. Stockton, CA
  66. Omaha, NE
  67. Atlanta, GA
  68. Bakersfield, CA
  69. Austin, TX
  70. Cincinnati, OH
  71. Baltimore, MD
  72. Chicago, IL
  73. Boston, MA
  74. Oxnard, CA
  75. Rochester, NY
  76. Indianapolis, IN
  77. Minneapolis, MN
  78. Harrisburg, PA
  79. Phoenix, AZ
  80. Sacramento, CA
  81. Washington, DC
  82. Palm Bay, FL
  83. Kansas City, MO
  84. Daytona Beach, FL
  85. Milwaukee, WI
  86. Sarasota, FL
  87. Des Moines, IA
  88. San Diego, CA
  89. Spokane, WA
  90. San Francisco, CA
  91. Raleigh, NC
  92. San Jose, CA
  93. Seattle, WA
  94. Portland, OR
  95. Colorado Springs, CO
  96. Salt Lake City, UT
  97. Ogden, UT
  98. Boise, ID
  99. Provo, UT
  100. Denver, CO

Strong winds, a wet winter and early bloom can accelerate a severe allergy season as well as illnesses that result from excessive allergies.

Allergies: Your Questions Answered

Allergy season usually begins with the start of Spring in March.  Yet many may start their symptoms as early as February if they are allergic to what’s blooming.

Tree pollens start first in January and then taper off in April.  Grass pollen starts to rise in February and March.   Finally weed pollens join the party by the Spring and extend through the Summer and Fall.

Here are your questions answered:

What are allergies?

Allergies are the result of the immune response to a foreign particulate that our body senses.  One could be allergic to pollen, dust, dander, food, insects, mold, metals, transfused blood, grafts, medicine and anything the body senses as a foreign intruder.  Even though these may be individually harmless, a hypersensitivity reaction occurs as a result of their intrusion into the body.  IgE antibodies find the allergen (intruder) and activate mast cells in the tissue and basophils in the blood.  When these cells get activated, they release substances to help protect the body, including histamines, leukotrienes, and cytokines. These help the body attempt to sneeze and cough the allergen out, wall off the antigen, signal more antibodies, or produce tears and nasal secretions to flush it out.

What are symptoms of seasonal allergies?

Symptoms of allergies could include any or a combination of the following:

  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Runny nose
  • Eye watering
  • Red Eyes
  • Itchy eyes
  • Itchy skin
  • Rash
  • Itchy throat
  • Fatigue
  • Congestion….. to name a few.

How do they differ from a cold?

Colds may have very similar symptoms to allergies.  However they are different.

The common cold is caused by a virus.  When one gets infected by the virus they may feel malaise, fever, and achy.  This does not occur with allergies.

Moreover, nasal secretions from allergies are usually clear.  In a cold, the mucous could be thicker and with color.

The same holds true with sputum.  During an allergy the cough may have little to no mucous and if so, be light-colored.  Thick mucus could be a sign of an infection.

An allergic sore throat will seem more dry and scratchy.  A sore throat from a cold is more uncomfortable and less easy to soothe.

Allergies may persist or be cyclical.  Cold symptoms will usually subside after a few days and rarely persist longer than 10 days.

Can allergies lead to a cold?

Yes and no.  Allergies should not in and of themselves cause an infection. However they may make one more vulnerable for a virus or bacteria to take over.    Hence a bronchitis, sinus infection, or pneumonia could uncommonly follow an asthma attack.

Are seasonal allergies dangerous?

As stated previously, if one is susceptible to colds, an allergic attack could make them vulnerable. Moreover if one suffers from asthma, an allergy attack could incite an asthma attack.  Very rarely would we see a life threatening anaphylaxis to an allergen such as pollen.

Allergy season is here: What are the worst offenders?

How can we prevent and treat allergies?

Avoiding, or decreasing exposure to the allergen is key.   We suggest the following:

  1. Be aware of your local weather and pollen counts.  If the weather begins to warm and regional vegetation is blooming, allergy season may be upon you sooner than you know.
  2. Avoid outside pollen from coming into your house.  Avoid the urge to open all the windows during Springtime as wind will bring the pollen in.
  3. Clean your air filters.  Replace air filters frequently and consider using HEPA Filters
  4. Wash off pollen from your hair and clothes before you sit on the couch or jump into bed.
  5. Close your car windows when you park.
  6. “Recirculate” the air in your car
  7. Discuss with your medical provider if you are a candidate for medications such as antihistamines, nasal corticosteroids or leukotriene antagonists.  
  8. If you suffer from respiratory illnesses or a chronic medical condition, discuss with your medical provider if you need to start your allergy medication before allergy season hits. Some of these medications may take a couple of weeks to reach therapeutic levels.

How can I find my local pollen counts?

Local tree, ragweed and grass pollen counts can be obtained here.

 

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Daliah Wachs is a guest contributor to GCN news, her views and opinions, medical or otherwise, if expressed, are her own. Doctor Wachs is an MD,  FAAFP and a Board Certified Family Physician.  The Dr. Daliah Show , is nationally syndicated M-F from 11:00 am - 2:00 pm and Saturday from Noon-1:00 pm (all central times) at GCN.