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Intense allergy season expected after wet winter

Tuesday, April 12, 2011 | 5:26 p.m. CDT; updated 11:05 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, April 12, 2011

COLUMBIA — Allergy season is here again, and experts are saying this year might be worse than usual for allergy sufferers.

Alvis Barrier, co-director of MU's ENT and Allergy Center of Missouri, said allergy predictions are made based on the amount of wetness in the ground. When there is a lot of water and flooding, moisture seeps deep into the soil.

This excess moisture is “good for the environment, not so good for the allergies,” said Shawna Strickland, clinical assistant professor in the MU School of Health Professions.

It allows plants and trees to grow more, but that growth leads to more pollens and molds, two main causes of spring allergies.

This year was wetter than last year, so as much or more pollen and mold bloom are expected — and last year was the worst spring season in 37 years, Barrier said.

The bad allergy seasons are not a trend, Barrier said — just related to the wetness.

“These are two very exceptionally wet years,” he said.

If next year is dry, he said, allergy season will be less intense.

More pollen and mold do not increase the number of people with allergies because allergies are genetic, Barrier said. However, it will increase the intensity of symptoms for people who already experience them.

Symptoms include a runny nose, sneezing, stuffiness, itchy eyes and throat, fatigue and sinus headaches, Barrier said.

Strickland said allergy symptoms commonly interfere with daily life, leading sufferers to stay inside more. Allergies might trigger problems for people with asthma, she said, but they do not always inhibit breathing.

The best ways to fight allergy symptoms are basic hygiene habits such as hand washing, Strickland said. She strongly recommended washing bed sheets weekly to get rid of pollen and mold spores and said to keep windows closed and air conditioning on so air can be filtered.

Barrier said people with moderate allergies should take an antihistamine, many of which are available over the counter.

Strickland said different over-the-counter medications treat different symptoms and cause different reactions, so it can be hard to find or choose one. She recommends talking to a pharmacist for help.

If those medications do not work, see a primary health care provider. Strickland said some people might require stronger medications or allergy testing to identify specific allergens to avoid.

MU Health Care has started offering a new self-administered therapy option called allergy drops. Patients place three drops of the medicated liquid under their tongue once a day. The drops are formulated according to each patient's allergy profile in order to relieve symptoms, MU Health Care spokesperson Matt Splett said. They are similar to allergy shots, just more convenient and with less pain, Splett said.

He suggested allergy sufferers go online to check pollen and mold counts then limit time outside on days when counts are high.

The worst part of the bloom is in the morning, but the air will settle by the afternoon, Barrier said.

Strickland said parents of children who have allergies should watch for triggers and keep their children clean, but she doesn’t recommend keeping them from exercising and having fun outside.

“Allergies don’t have to stop us,” she said. “We can overcome those barriers.”


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Comments

Mark Foecking April 12, 2011 | 6:09 p.m.

One thing that worked for me was to eat local (has to be local) bee pollen for a few weeks before allergy season would typically start. It didn't cure everything, but it made it a good bit less severe.

DK

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