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Published: Friday, 5/11/2001

Conditions conspire for season of sneezin'

BY LUKE SHOCKMAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

If you suffer from seasonal allergies, no one needs to tell you this season is especially nasty.

Because of climate conditions that have been just right, the amount of tree pollen in the air soared for the last several weeks.

One local allergist who measures pollen levels says this is the highest tree pollen count he has ever seen.

“Last year at this time the pollen count was 800 [pollen grains per cubic meter]; we're at 1,600 this year,” said Dr. John Winder of Toledo. “We're having people who are very, very symptomatic this year. ... They're just miserable.”

Dr. Lois Nelson, a Toledo allergist, said she has noticed more people complaining over the last week. She said she is not sure whether this year is a lot worse than years past.

“To be honest, when you're in the middle of it, it always seems bad,” she said. “But let's put it this way: the ones we're seeing have had more allergic symptoms.”

Dr. Nelson added she is seeing lots of allergies this spring showing up in small children, and “that's a little unusual.”

Aaron Rehl, program manager with the Milwaukee-based National Allergy Bureau, said tree pollen counts are high in many areas of the country, and “the Midwest and East are just getting bombarded.”

“In April it was really nice, and then it went back to two weeks of crummy weather. Allergists say the trees started to bud during that nice week, then were cooped up and once it clears, they compare it to a balloon popping,” he said.

Dr. Winder, who is chairman of public education for the American College of Asthma, Allergy, and Immunology, said it appears tree pollen is the biggest culprit right now.

Dr. David Hunter of Toledo said he has not noticed a big difference this year compared to years past but warned that grass will start to pollinate soon and that could add to the misery.

The tips for those suffering spring allergies are the same given to those who in August or September suffer from ragweed pollen allergies:

  • For those taking over-the-counter or prescription medication, the most important thing to do is to take medication before symptoms occur. Don't wait for things to get bad.

  • Pollen can collect on your skin and clothes. If you're feeling miserable, try washing your face and hair, or better yet, take a cool shower and change your clothes.

  • Whenever possible, try to keep your car or house windows closed and use the air conditioner. If you use a fan, have the fan blowing air from the inside of your house to the outside.

  • Allergy medications have improved greatly, so do not assume you have to tough it out. However, some over-the-counter medications can make you drowsy.

    In addition, some allergists suggest avoiding decongestant, over-the-counter nasal sprays because they can cause “rebound” effects and make your symptoms come back even worse.

    Like all allergies, those involving pollen occur when a substance triggers the immune system to overproduce defensive chemicals called histamines, which in turn cause a runny nose, watery eyes, itching, and sneezing.

    Other allergic triggers include mold and dust mites.



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