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Here come those seasonal allergies

May 5, 2017

Seasonal allergies get you down? Here’s how to cope.

 AllgeriesSpring. The redbud, dogwood, pear and crabapple trees are blooming. Ahhhh! (Choo!)

"Yes, those flowering trees are a major source of spring allergies," says Dr. Noah Stern, program director in the department of otolaryngology for Detroit Medical Center. "In fact, in the plant world, trees are the most common source of seasonal allergies."

“To provoke a reaction, the allergen has to be airborne,” Stern said. "Tree pollen is feathery light, floating through the air on a warm spring day. The pollen breezes directly into your nose. Even though the pollen isn’t dangerous, it triggers the immune system of people with allergies. Their nose and eyes flood to try and wash out the attacker, triggering coughing and throat clearing."

As spring turns into summer, grasses take over as allergy instigators. Weeds are the major culprits in the fall. Flowers? Not so much, it turns out. Their pollen is heavy and they rely on bees, not the breeze, to distribute it.

Then again, many people don’t have to wait for warm weather to set off their allergies. Mold is with us year-round. Every human hosts a thriving colony of dust mites, which live off our dead skin. We walk into a friend’s house and their cat or dog sets us off.

Doctors can test for allergies and treat severe ones with immunotherapy. For most people, though, allergies are just an annoyance. Happily, Stern said, over-the-counter medicines are effective and can safely be taken over the course of a lifetime.

“Antihistamines are very safe and can be used by all ages,” Stern said. “Older people should avoid the kinds that make them drowsy, only because of the risk of falling. Nasal steroids are very safe, especially if you need them every day for a year-round allergy. They’re not as good for occasional symptoms.”

For seasonal allergies, try avoidance, Stern said. Close the windows. Use an air conditioner and install a HEPA filter on your system. Embrace the rain: It washes the allergens to the ground. Remove your clothes when you get home, then shower.

“Why me?” you may wail over your allergies. Blame mom and dad. If one of your parents had allergies, you have a 25 percent chance of getting them. Both parents, 50 percent. Young people can outgrow allergies but, then again, older people may suddenly acquire new ones.

As an otolaryngologist (ear, nose and throat doctor), Dr. Stern sees patients whose symptoms affect the respiratory tract. Doctors who are allergists, may also treat those conditions as well as people with food allergies. Your family physician will refer you to the appropriate specialist.

For more information on seasonal allergies or to schedule an appointment with a DMC allergist, call 1-888-DMC-2500.

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