Prather Pediatric and Allergy Center - Ask Doctor Brent

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Title: SPRINGTIME ALLERGIES

Category: Lagniappe - a little extra

Every springtime our environment turns beautiful. The cold weather is behind us and everything is blooming. The land is green along with the numerous pastel colors of flowering trees, and bushes. Unfortunately, if you have allergies, this beautiful time of year can be rough going, especially if you have allergies to trees. They are the predominate pollinating plants from about March through mid-May. Every tree and bush pollinates at this time and in particular, large trees cause significant allergies. The two worst trees are oak and pecan because they put out extremely huge amounts of tiny pollen grains. These get into our noses and throats and trigger hayfever and asthma. All the other trees combined also produce significant allergy problems. Finally, treelike bushes, which are common in South Louisiana, such as Ligustrum and Redtips, pollinate heavily in April. If you have tree and bush allergies and you see the pollen falling on your car or smell the Ligustrum bushes as they suddenly turn white in April, try to stay indoors a little bit more. Make sure you are taking a potent, non-sedating antihistamine on a daily basis during this period. Finally, ask your doctor about several effective and safe nasal sprays. Some of these nasal sprays are a form of cortisone that is very effective topically in the nose but does not absorb into the bloodstream. Another new nasal spray, Atrovent, is a safe and effective nasal decongestant but has no rebound effect such as Afrin and Neosynephrine. Finally, you can always practice old fashioned remedies as your parents and grandparents did, which is to drink more fluids, use saltwater nasal rinses and vaporizers to clear out your head from time to time. One other good old fashioned medicine I recommend to everyone from babies to old folks is to rub Vickís Vapor Rub on your chest and back when you go to sleep at night. This is a good safe decongestant without any side effects and is safe in all ages.

What other potential problems can you encounter if you have allergies in the Spring? If you have bad allergies and particularly if you have asthma weather can be an important link to your symptoms. The worst weather scenario is the triad of falling barometric pressure, falling temperature, and rising humidity. This triad, which usually occurs when a front moves through an area, will cause the pollens to have a more profound effect on you and will frequently trigger asthma attacks, sinus infections, ear infections, and other nasal allergy related diseases. Again, during these brief times, usually lasting one or two days, itís better to stay indoors with windows closed and the air conditioning running. Be sure you have a good clean air filter in your central air system or window unit. The type Paul Harvey advertises is excellent. These are washable and reusable month after month. Other less expensive types are also good btu need to be changed frequently.


Besides tree pollens in the Spring, there are other pollens which can make you sick if you have allergies. These include mold pollens which seem to increase after each rain. Also grass pollination starts in late Spring and carries through the entire Summer. If you have mold allergies, avoid spending time around damp outdoor areas, particularly barns and piles of rotted leaves. If you have grass allergies, avoid fields or yards when anyone is cutting the grass. We all remember the sweet smell of cut grass. If you have allergies to grass make sure you avoid this smell if at all possible. When mowing your lawn make sure you wear a mask covering your nose and mouth while you do this. I would recommend you take a good healthy dose of antihistamine and some tearing eye drops, such as Visine or Visine AC, during these heavy exposure times as well.

The worst allergy of all is actually eczema. If you have allergies to any of the above mentioned pollens during Spring, your eczema may flare up. Eczema is an allergic condition in which you skin becomes leathery and rashes up every time you scratch it. It can get so severe that it actually bleeds and becomes infected. Treatment of eczema is very complicated but basically boils down to controlling itching with proper antihistamines, hydrating the skin with less frequent bathing and avoidance of hot water, and the use of a skin moisturizer after you halfway towel dry. Use of safe corticosteroid creams on the affected skin area once or twice a day usually rounds out the therapy. Besides these medical therapeutic measures, try to avoid the triggering factors such as the trees, molds, and grasses as much as you can and wear breathable cotton cloths and long socks if you are outside a lot.

There are several other important allergy tips to keep in mind that are important year around and not just in Springtime. These include limiting your exposure to common indoor allergens such as pet dander (particularly cats, and occasionally dogs and birds). The worst indoor allergen for most people throughout the country and especially in the deep South is the house dust mite. House dust mite is a human skin scavenger that eats our dead skin, lives in our homes, and when it dies it becomes forever part of the indoor dist in our homes. The feces pellets of the mite are actually the main culprit. Unfortunately they are the same size as a ragweed spore and have a similar protein consistency. This make them a perfect setup for rapid allergy sensitization if you are genetically inclined to have allergies. The best way to remove mite from your home is to strip the carpets out and clean or wet mop your floors frequently. If you canít live without your carpets, then they can be treated with two fairly effective methods. The first is a wet spray called tannic acid which denatures the mite proteins and allows the vacuum cleaner to pull it out of most of the carpet. Some of it, however, does stay in the deep lower carpet. The second effective treatment is a medicine called Acarason. It is a dry powder which is sprinkled on the carpet and then vacuumed up after letting it set a while. The Acarason helps pull out the mite protein from the carpet and continues to work in the carpet for months afterwards to prevent mites from building up as rapidly. Other effective measures to control mite allergy include covering pillows, mattresses, and box springs with vinyl or plastic covers. Washing sheets and blankets in hot water regularly also helps. Limiting stuffed toys and placing them in the freezer or microwave or hot sun periodically decreases their mite content. Good ventilation of the house such as opening windows after a good hard rain and doing periodic heavy housecleaning also helps to keep mite protein down to a minimal. Remember when you do any vacuuming, no matter what brand you use, you stir up mite and the air will have more mite in it for several hours. This is the worst time for a mite allergy patient to come back into the room. Ideally, do your vacuuming several hours before kids come home from school or day care. Perhaps, some wise engineer will figure a better way to build our future homes and other buildings so that mites have a place to go and we can stop living in a mite happy world which is driving asthma and allergy up year after year.

As you can see Spring, despite its natural beauty, can be a dangerous time if you have bad allergies. I would recommend that you consider the things mentioned above and consult your doctor or board certified allergist if you continue to suffer in a significant way. The good news is that there are ways to control allergies and there are constantly improving medicines available. Donít give up. You can clear your nose, chest, and skin and live a healthy complete life.