Warm weather at the start of the year caused early pollination in some trees, exacerbating conditions for allergy sufferers and raising expectations that 2013 will see increased seasonal allergies. Metro asked immunologist Dr. Jennifer Collins, an assistant professor at the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary and author of the blog Itchy & Scratchy, for tips on combating the scurge.
Know what you’re allergic to
“Knowing what you’re allergic to is really important. An immunologist can test you and then give specific advice, and then give effective treatment. One of the things I see is people who have suffered for years and they don’t have to. The best thing about my job is helping people live a normal life.”
Manage with medications
“Many over-the-counter medications work just fine, but consult your doctor or an allergist. Steroids are used to help with the inflammation. There are side effects, long term, but steroids can stop acute allergies from becoming chronic. Allergy shots are effective. They introduce a small amount of an allergen and build gradually to trick the body. Eighty-five to 95 percent of people see about an 80 percent improvement and need less medication.”
Limit exposure to allergens at home
“Pollen levels are highest between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m., so close your windows. Make sure AC filters are clean and working effectively. If you have animals, wipe them down with a washcloth when you come in. Washing your sheets in hot water and regular cleaning will help, too.”
Sign up for alerts or get an app
“Lots of websites offer email alerts and there are apps, too. They help you to prepare for bad days. If you know the level is going to be high you can take your medication before going out and getting on with your normal life.”
Is it a cold, or an allergy?
“Symptoms can be difficult to differentiate from the common cold, because they include itchy eyes, runny nose — even itchy ears. You might get a sore throat, hives or welts on the arms, and sometimes asthma or coughing. Allergies can cause you to be more susceptible to bacterial or viral infection and can actually make you more vulnerable to a spring or summer cold.”