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Published October 04, 2012, 11:40 PM

Sneezy does it: Seasonal allergy relief on the way

FARGO - Incessant sneezing, watery eyes, tissue in hand – seasonal allergy sufferers are easy to spot this time of the year. While people with outdoor allergies struggle to find relief, they may find it interesting that ragweed pollen counts, one of the most common local allergens, are actually down this year compared to last, said Dr. Dan Dalan of Allergy & Asthma Care Center.

By: Anna G. Larson, INFORUM

FARGO - Incessant sneezing, watery eyes, tissue in hand – seasonal allergy sufferers are easy to spot this time of the year.

While people with outdoor allergies struggle to find relief, they may find it interesting that ragweed pollen counts, one of the most common local allergens, are actually down this year compared to last, said Dr. Dan Dalan of Allergy & Asthma Care Center.

“People generally notice an increase in allergies due to pollens and molds around this time of year, but the pollen count is actually lower than years past,” he said. “If someone says they have more symptoms this year at this time, it’s true – for them.”

While the count is down, people may still have bothersome symptoms. Exposure, type of allergies, genetics and severity of allergies play a role in how intense a person’s symptoms are, Dalan said.

“The pollen count is lower, but that still means there’s a lot of pollen out there to bother people,” he said.

Luckily, relief is close.

Once snow covers the ground, seasonal allergies will be put to bed, said Dr. Dan Dalan of Allergy & Asthma Care Center in Fargo.

“Hay fever comes from pollens, and once the plants are covered with snow, people will find their symptoms get much, much better,” he said.

Moorhead resident Chelsea Thorson noticed her seasonal allergies were non-existent this year, minus one day in early September. After suffering from seasonal allergies for about a decade, Thorson switched to a gluten-free diet in February. Following that change, her usual May and September allergy symptoms mostly disappeared.

“I can’t say I’m completely not feeling anything,” she said. “But, this is the first year I’ve had any relief since eighth or ninth grade.”

People who have certain allergies, like wheat pollen, may find relief from seasonal allergies if they remove gluten, grains or other wheat products from their diet, said Dr. Susan Mathison of Catalyst Medical Center.

“By removing the products, the patient would decrease the overall stress on their overall health, and they would be less apt to respond severely to seasonal allergens,” she said.

The method doesn’t work for everyone and every allergy, but it can be worth a try to help alleviate symptoms, Mathison said.

Allergy sufferers may have found temporary relief from our first snow yesterday, but until the white stuff coats the ground, Dalan has a few recommendations:

• Avoid looking into the wind, as pollens can enter the body that way.

• Pollens are at their peak in late morning, and some people might want to stay indoors during that time.

• Don’t do “the Charlie Brown thing” and jump in a pile of leaves. “Just because plants are dead, doesn’t mean pollens aren’t on the ground,” he said.

• Avoid rubbing itchy eyes. Itching causes an increased release of histamines, making the eyes itch more.

• Over the counter drugs like Claritin can help when taken before allergy symptoms show up.

• Showering can offer relief by washing away pollens that might be on the body. “Water is your best friend,” he said.

Rinsing the nasal passages with a water solution can also help allergy symptoms, Mathison said. Nose and sinus irrigation using a bulb syringe (the plastic kind purchased for babies) and a solution made of canning salt (table salt has unwanted additives), baking soda and boiled (then cooled) water solution is effective at washing debris from the nose and pulling fluids out of the swollen membranes of the nose.

“People underestimate the power of a saline solution,” Mathison said.

Rinsing eyes with a saline solution (such as one used for contact lenses) can provide relief, too. Pollen granules adhere to mucosal membranes, and rinsing the nose and eyes can rid the body of the granules before they attach to the membranes, she said.

Thorson doesn’t take any medication for her allergies now that they are controlled by a gluten-free diet.

“It was simple for me – no medication necessary,” she said. “It’s affecting me a lot of positive ways.”

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