Warm temps herald start of allergies

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Allergy suffers should brace themselves for an itchy, sneezy couple of months. Those who don't should brush up on their German so they can voice a sympathetic "Gesundheit" to their pollen-plagued comrades.

Warm weather has sent tree pollen flying and grass pollens are expected to go airborne en masse in a few weeks, a sign that allergy season is in full bloom for the roughly 40 to 50 million Americans who affected by some type of allergen.

"It just makes you feel terrible," said Mark McDowell, a Cape Girardeau allergy sufferer who works in construction. "I can deal with all the sore throats and sneezing. The biggest problem is you don't get any sleep. That affects me all day, and I'm not nearly as productive."

Dr. Janna Tuck, a Cape Girardeau physician and allergist, said the area is at the peak of tree allergy season, which is fueled by oak, maple, hickory and other trees that pollinate heavily in the spring.

Grass season generally starts the first week of May, peaks around Memorial Day and fizzles by mid-June.

The symptoms are the same, she said: clear, runny noses, sneezing, itching, watery eyes or a scratchy soft palate.

"These folks get pretty miserable," she said. "Given how nice the weather is, we're seeing an above-average tree season."

But the worst comes later with the ragweed, which affects people starting in mid-August and lasts until Halloween, she said.

Tuck and other allergists say that people with milder symptoms can take over-the-counter medicines like Claritin, Alavert or Benadryl. But consistent and severe sufferers should see their physician or allergists for evaluation.

Dr. Bob Sascha, an allergist in Cape Girardeau, said his office has been busy in recent days.

"It's bad," he said. "It's really bad. People are miserable right now."

With warm and windy weather, pollens are everywhere. He said it's the yellow, gritty substance that often sticks to your car.

"People kind of laugh about allergies, but if you have them, it really does affect your quality of life," Sascha said. "You can't sleep, you cough, there's drainage. It can be devastating. Spring comes in like gangbusters, and it can knock your socks off."


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