By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
In the spring, a young man’s fancy turns to…allergies? If you find yourself sneezing, wheezing, coughing, and rubbing your itchy eyes during the warm weather months, take heart. You’re not alone in your hay fever hangover. Millions of people suffer from seasonal allergies, thanks to those pesky pollen particles filling the air around us.
A study recently released by the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology revealed that weather changes have been gradually increasing the pollen count since 2000. The study also found that the trend is expected to continue for the next 30 years. You could also blame Superstorm Sandy for your heightened allergy symptoms, according to health experts, who point out that the Oct. 29 hurricane left the northeast with more humidity than normal.
“I have been sneezing like crazy, more than I usually do at this time of year,” Iris Levinson, a Bensonhurst resident, told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. “But who would have thought it was because of Sandy?” she said when told by a reporter of the Sandy-pollen connection.
But there’s help for allergy sufferers. Dr. Michael Marcus, an allergy specialist at Maimonides Medical Center, offers a variety of strategies for coping with symptoms.
His first piece of advice is simple. “The secret to minimizing the impact of your allergies this year is to minimize your exposure to excess pollen," Dr. Marcus said.
The Asthma & Allergy Foundation of America has stated that the pollen count is at its highest in urban areas between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Marcus suggested taking allergy medications in the morning, instead of waiting until you experience symptoms later in the day.
“Once symptoms present themselves, over-the-counter allergy medications are far less effective,” Marcus said. “You should also try delaying your outdoor activities to the evening when pollen has subsided,” he added.
Don’t think that by staying indoors you are safe from pollen, he warned.
"Practices that minimize the amount of pollen entering your house are also important,” Marcus said. “This includes taking shoes off outside, changing clothes, showering at night and keeping windows closed. Animal fur can also trap pollen, so bathing pets more often in the spring is also advised,” he said.
When preventative measures aren’t enough to lessen symptoms, there are three broad categories of over-the-counter oral allergy medications to try, according to Marcus:
- First-generation antihistamines, while effective, often cause drowsiness; these include Diphenhydramine HCl (brand name Benadryl) and Chlorpheniramine (brand name Chlortrimeton).
- Newer antihistamines typically do not cause the same drowsiness, and thus do not interfere with daytime activities; these include Loratadine (brand name Claritin) and Fexofenadine (brand name Allegra).
- A third category of antihistamines includes Cetirizine (brand name Zyrtec), which causes less drowsiness than the first-generation antihistamines, but has mild sedation properties.
“Everyone responds to these medications in different ways, so it is very important to be careful the first time you take any medicine to see how your body reacts,” Marcus said. If one medication doesn’t work, it is worth trying another, even within the same category, he said. Read labels carefully, he said.
Some people might have to see a doctor, Marcus said. “If it takes a daily dose of medication to control your symptoms, or if you need two or more medications to do the job, it’s worth consulting an allergy specialist,” he said. “A physician can help you decide whether prescription medications or a different treatment regimen may be a more effective solution,” he said.