Coping with seasonal allergies
July 9, 2007
Steamboat Springs — Your eyes are itching and your nose alternates between running and stopping up. You have repeated fits of sneezing and at times a feeling of tightness in the chest. You just feel miserable.
If you know you have allergies, you know why you are in such physical distress. You see the “cotton” flying in the air and that’s your signal that it is allergy season.
But maybe you have never suffered from allergies before. This could be your first experience with “hay fever.” You are certainly not alone.
Local physicians report their phones are ringing off the hook this summer. Patients are complaining, “My allergies are killing me!” We seem to be experiencing worse allergy problems in the Yampa Valley than in previous years, and people are desperate to find relief.
It is not the cotton from the trees that is causing your affliction, but rather the tiny, invisible pollens from grasses that are blooming at this time of year. You actually can see the flowers of the grasses when you look at their “heads,” especially the pretty purple Timothy grass. The wind blows the tiny pollen grains for many miles until they eventually land in your eyes, nose and bronchial tubes.
So what can you do, other than start praying for an early snowfall? Call your doctor if your current medicine does not help much or if you aren’t currently using any medication. Any primary care physician can prescribe medications for allergies.
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Especially if you have some difficulty in breathing, a troublesome cough or wheezing, it’s best to see your doctor right away. Your chest symptoms could be asthma, a common companion of hay fever.
In years past, doctors would often give a cortisone shot to allergy sufferers, but nowadays we have better and safer options. These include a number of prescription nose sprays, eye drops and inhalers that can quickly bring symptoms under control. You may have to take medicine every day until your allergy season comes to an end.
There also are some effective and safe over-the-counter medicines available in the drug store or pharmacy such as loratidine pills, cromolyn nasal spray and ketotifen eye drops. I suggest you talk to your registered pharmacist.
If you have severe, recurrent hay fever or your symptoms get worse from year to year, consider allergy testing and immunotherapy (allergy shots). It is important to know exactly what you are allergic to. Allergy shots stimulate your immune system to build up a tolerance to pollens. This is the only current treatment that can reduce your allergies in the long haul.
For more information check out the American Foundation of Allergy and Asthma, a nonprofit organization and resource center on the Web at http://www.aafa.org. It does not promote or sell any specific products.
Take care of your allergies and enjoy the summer and the great outdoors!
Roswitha Moehring, M.D., is a board-certified allergist who has practiced in Steamboat Springs for more than 20 years.
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