Does more snow mean lessened allergies for Coloradans this year? Not exactly.
Snow remaining on the ground helps to keep pollen levels lower, so the good news is this year’s allergy season is getting off to a later start.
The bad news is a wetter season means more vegetation growth and more pollen from trees, grasses and weeds in the air, so the Yampa Valley may be in for a tough allergy season, clinicians say.
The later start gives allergy sufferers more time to prepare, which is key as allergy medicines should be taken two to three weeks in advance to be the most effective, said Dr. Rebin Kader, an allergy and immunology specialist at UCHealth Allergy and Immunology Clinic in Cherry Creek.
“Allergy treatment mainly is preventative treatment. So, treat before exposure to prevent allergic reactions from happening in the first place,” Kader said.
A common way to treat allergies is with nasal sprays, but the doctor said 99.9% of people use those sprays wrong by holding the bottle upright and spraying toward the eyes when the sprays should be held horizontally to the nostril and sprayed toward the back of the head. The allergist also recommends cleaning out congested nasal passages first with a saline spray before using an allergy spray.
“I recommend using nasal sprays in the morning and a few hours before bedtime two to three weeks before allergies hit,” said Kader, noting that allergy medicines need to be used regularly and consistently to work.
According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, approximately 81 million people in the U.S. were diagnosed with seasonal allergic rhinitis, or hay fever, in 2021. That equals about 26% of adults and 19% of children.
April to September is the general timeframe for seasonal allergies, but this year, allergies in the Yampa Valley are predicted to hit hard in May. Allergy season starts with wind-driven tree pollen, and then progresses with grasses, weeds and mold through the summer and fall with a short break in June or July, Kader said.
“Once the weather starts warming up, we see an influx of people come to the clinic because they begin to experience symptoms of seasonal allergies,” said Dr. Mohini Pathria, who also works at the allergy clinic in Cherry Creek.
Wind and dry weather aggravate allergies, so Kader advises closing doors and windows on windy days to reduce the amount of pollen coming inside, which can settle into carpets and fabrics.
Conversely, moist conditions can lead to allergies from mold growth, which can grow within 48 hours. Kader recommends monitoring indoor moisture levels and keeping them below 50% humidity to reduce mold.
Homeowners can purchase an inexpensive hygrometer or water vapor monitor. Dust mites and cockroaches also like moist conditions, which can lead to more allergies.
“Dust mites live by absorbing moisture in environments, so reduce humidity to lower dust mites,” Kader said.
With many homeowners in the Yampa Valley fighting flooding or snowmelt seepage, Kader said it’s best to try to drain and dry out wet crawlspaces as much as possible and then close or seal the crawlspace access into the home to keep mold spores out of living areas.
Kader loves dogs, but he also knows they can bring outdoor pollens and allergens inside. He advises wiping down pooches after grassy and weedy walks. Humans can also take off clothing that’s been exposed to outdoor pollens and keep those dirty clothes out of the bedroom.
Cat allergies are tough to combat because cat dander can remain in a home for up to six months and stick to clothes and bedding. Cat allergy sufferers should wash clothes and bedding in hot water and keep cats off of beds and out of bedrooms.
A HEPA air filter can help with cat dander, and a HEPA level vacuum cleaner can be beneficial too, especially during times when pets are shedding their coats.
Allergy sufferers may need to be assessed with skin prick or blood draw testing to see what is causing their symptoms, such as a runny nose, sneezing, congestion, coughing, itchy eyes or skin or wheezing. People with breathing-related conditions such as asthma, COPD or heart failure may need to be careful to control their allergies, Kader said.
One newer treatment for environmental allergies is sublingual immunotherapy available in tablets that dissolve under the tongue.
“The goal of allergen immunotherapy is for people to develop an increased tolerance and decreased symptoms to what they are sensitized to that are triggering their symptoms,” Pathria said. “Over time, once their tolerance improves, they may be able to reduce or even stop their medications.”
Patients should be tested for allergies from April to August when they have more symptoms, Kader said. The UCHealth Ear, Nose and Throat Clinic in Steamboat Springs can complete 60 environmental tests such as for trees, weeds, grasses, molds, some animal dander and dust mites.
To reach Suzie Romig, call 970-871-4205 or email sromig@SteamboatPilot.com.
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