CINCINNATI—It’s been a winter to remember in the Tristate,
complete with snow, ice and sub-zero
temperatures. But with temperatures finally warming up, spring is in
sight with challenges of its own: seasonal allergies.
Nearly 40 million people suffer from seasonal allergies,
also known as hay fever, with symptoms such as a stuffy, runny nose, itchy
eyes, and sneezing and wheezing.
"Spring allergy season has been starting a little earlier in
recent years and has been a little more severe every year now for a number of
years,” says Allen Seiden, MD, a professor in the University of Cincinnati (UC)
Department of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery and otolaryngologist (ear,
nose and throat specialist) at UC Health.
Seiden says that although the cold winter froze trees,
plants and grass and halted their growth, recent heavy rains and warmer weather
will speed up pollen production, especially in trees. Pollen, the dust-like,
male reproductive part of plants, is dispersed into the air as trees and plants
begin to bloom. Trees typically pollinate in late March and early April,
followed by grass later in the season.
Additionally, Seiden says, cold weather predicted for later
this month might impair pollination, only to result in a rebound once the
weather warms again.
"This means those with allergies may start to rev up their
allergy response to the first exposure (priming), which is then dampened by the
cold, only to really blast out when the exposure recurs,” he says.
UC Health Otolaryngology offers sublingual immunotherapy, a convenient
way to treat allergies without injections. In sublingual immunotherapy, drops
under the tongue are administered to alter the immune reaction.
"Every week the patient takes a tiny dose of the things they
are allergic to,” explains Seiden. "We increase the dosage a little bit at a
time, and then the patient’s body gets to know these things as friendly and
doesn’t try to fight against them.”
Seiden recommends taking the following steps to help reduce
your exposure and to control symptoms:
- Since the peak hour for pollen dispersal is 5–10 a.m., try
to avoid the outdoors during that time. If you do need to be outside, wear a
- To help remove pollen from skin and hair, shower immediately
after being outdoors, and especially before going to bed.
- Wash clothing that has been worn outside in hot water. Do
not dry it outdoors.
- Wash bedding in hot water once a week and avoid hanging it
- Keep the windows and doors of your home and car closed. Use
an air conditioner to cool the air, not window or attic fans.
"It’s important for people to know what they’re actually
allergic to, so an allergist or otolaryngologist can accurately diagnose and
help them manage their condition,” says Seiden.
"What works best for one person may not be as effective for
another,” says Seiden. "That’s why it’s important to see a doctor before your
allergies get out of control.”