20100407-allergy-0101

Written by The Independent Staff
Wednesday, 7 April 2010

This should come as no surprise, but pollen levels in Lafayette have been consistently high since mid March. Just as spring weather lures us outside, trees begin shedding pollen and the March winds blow it through the swamps and across the fields and into our houses. Allergy sufferers beware!

Those trees we love so much, that make our landscape so unique, shed pollen as part of the reproductive cycle, from microscopic size particles to the visible yellow dust that coats our cars. Oaks, pines, cedar, cypress, hickory, poplar, ash, maple and elm are among the worst offenders, and they are all around us. The most common allergens include trees, grass and weeds, animal dander, mold and dust. If you suffer from asthma and allergies, the best treatment is avoidance—avoid those things you are allergic to and that trigger a reaction. Easier said than done.

It’s almost impossible to avoid these things, particularly in spring when we enjoy planting spring flowers, playing with pets, grilling on the barbeque, weekend festivals and afternoons at the ballpark. “We’re a culture that likes being in our yards, and we have so many outdoor activities,” says Dr. Jeffrey J. Joseph of Acadian ENT. To add to this seasonal dilemma, we had a particularly cold and wet winter that kept everyone inside. Our coughs and colds have lingered and never fully cleared before the pollen hit the air. “We’re starting off a little sicker than usual,” Joseph says, “so we’re going into the allergy season a little compromised.” Unresolved coughs and colds can lead to fluid build up and complications with sinus blockage. “That’s the biggest thing now and harder to treat,” he says.

Fortunately, there are medications to help with allergies, from over-the-counter antihistamines that help alleviate symptoms to prescribed medications that can prevent the release of chemicals that cause the allergic reaction. Joseph says taking medicine can be helpful, but he advises clearing any medication, even over-the-counter medication, with a doctor. “Take your medicine as prescribed, so you can stay ahead,” he says. Allergy medications and treatment come in the form of pills, liquids, eye drops, nasal sprays, creams and immunotheraphy (allergy shots). An evaluation from an allergist can help determine the best treatment for your allergy.

Whether we are afflicted with a mild case of itchy eyes and runny nose or a severe allergy or asthma attack, we can all take steps to get through the season with as little discomfort as possible. Try to limit outdoor activities between 5 and 10 a.m. when pollen activity is the highest. Check pollen levels to know when it’s best to just stay inside in the air conditioning and delegate those outside chores.

Spring Cleaning:
This annual rite serves a useful purpose, even today. In days of old, when houses where closed to retain heat in the winter, warmer weather provided a good time to take rugs outside and beat out the dust, sweep the floors and wipe down the furniture. Same applies now. Stay ahead of things by vacuuming and dusting furniture regularly. Use disposable wipes or a damp cloth that you rinse often. If you stored firewood in the house during the winter, move it outside. Change out ac filters and replace with HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filters. Recycle old magazines and newspapers that have piled up over the winter and can attract dust and mold. Wash bedding and toss out any old pillows that cannot be effectively cleaned. Clear out closets and donate old clothes that are never worn and will gather dust and grow mold. And, while you’re cleaning, clean out your car where pollen can also collect. Wipe down surfaces, clear out clutter and wash mats.

Pamper Your Pets
Pets not only release dander that is an allergen for many people; they also carry in pollen from the outside. Try to give them a bath once a week. Wash out the bedding regularly and clean out food bowls. You’ll feel better, and they will too.

Personal Hygiene
Stay inside as much as possible. If you work outside, change your clothes when you come in and wash your hair each night to keep from transferring pollen to pillows and bedding. Wear a dust mask outside and/or sunglasses, depending on your allergy symptoms. Limit time outside to just after a rain when pollen count is lower.

If all else fails, and you are suffering miserably, take an allergy vacation to the beach and let the yard work wait until the air is clear and you can breathe deeply once again.

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