With the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America’s (AAFA) recent release of its 2013 Spring Allergy Capital list, Rochester won 37th place on the list of “the 100 most challenging places to live with allergies” during the spring and fall seasons. The report takes into consideration pollen counts, the use of allergy medications (both over-the-counter and prescription), and number of board-certified allergists per patient.
With the warmer spring weather soon upon us—signaling plants to start budding and trees to pollinate—we can expect hay fever (or seasonal allergic rhinitis ) to be right on its heels. What’s an allergy sufferer to do? To learn more about managing runny noses, congestion, sneezing, itchy and watery eyes, we spoke to allergist Dr. Carolina Marcus.
Scripts: Is there any way to avoid exposure to pollen this spring?
First, when it’s hot out, use an air conditioner as opposed to cracking windows or propping open doors. You really want to keep them shut as much as possible, to limit the amount of pollen entering your home and car. You can also plan to avoid outdoor activities or exercise early in the day, instead engaging in these activities in the afternoon or evening, since tree pollen is heaviest in the morning and tends to dissipate as the day goes on. You might also consider taking a shower and wash your hair—even if it’s just with water— before bedtime. This helps rid your hair and scalp of accumulated pollen that could otherwise end up on your pillow, where you can inhale it. By that same token, wash your clothing frequently, and don’t go to bed in the same clothes you wore during the day.
Scripts: That’s all great, practical advice. But what about medications—can you highlight some options?
Marcus: Over-the-counter antihistamines can be very helpful. Loratadine, cetirizine and fexofenadine are long-acting antihistamines that can help alleviate itchy eyes and a runny nose. But for nasal congestion, the single most effective treatment is a nasal glucocorticoid spray, which you secure by prescription. You should ask your doctor if you think you might benefit from this kind of medication.
Marcus: You have to engage a specialist. Consultation with an allergist can help you identify specific triggers and manage your symptoms and/or asthma. In some cases, allergy shots might be the best therapeutic option. Talk to your primary care doctor if you think you might benefit from working with an allergy specialist. It’s really important that you communicate your symptoms and concerns to all of your caregivers, regularly, so that they can best care for you as a team.
Here’s to a happy and healthy allergy season!
Carolina Z. Marcus, M.D., is an assistant professor of Immunology at the University of Rochester Medical Center. Her clinical interests focus on the education of her patients and their families, as well as the community at large, on asthma, atopic dermatitis and allergies. Dr. Marcus has a particular interest in food allergy awareness and education.
Want an appointment? Dr. Marcus sees patients at URMC’s Allergy and Immunology Clinic, 400 Red Creek Drive, Rochester, NY 14623. Learn more by calling (585) 486-0147.