A “big surge” of hay fever cases in coming weeks is assured, experts say.
A “big surge” of hay fever cases in coming weeks is assured, experts say.

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Sneezin’ season almost here

Published 10:27pm Friday, March 22, 2013

Pollen levels in Suffolk have not reached the heights associated with hay fever, but they’re on the way up.

Readings were at 8.9 Friday, in the medium to high range, and were predicted to rise slightly to 9.2 on Saturday and drop slightly to 7.8 on Sunday – still within that range – before falling to 7.1, in the medium range, on Monday, according to pollen.com.

Dr. Kimberly Smith-Griffin of Sentara Internal Medicine Physicians at Chesapeake Square, said the “kind of crazy” weather has meant hay fever hasn’t yet hit. Suffolk’s 30-day history on pollen.com bears that observation out.

Levels reached 9.1 on Feb. 25, but the next day fell to just over 6. They shot back to 9 on Feb. 27, and have since been on an up-and-down journey, hitting 10 — in the high range — on March 3 and 13, but dipping as low as 3.5 — low to medium — on March 12.

“I have not seen a lot of cases of hay fever — a few, but not many,” Smith-Griffin said Friday morning. “I think it will probably take more effect as the weather warms up … trees are still really dormant.”

But a “big surge” of hay fever cases in coming weeks is assured, Smith-Griffin continued.

She outlined some steps folks susceptible to allergies can take to minimize the impact, including, where possible, remaining indoors on high-pollen days.

“(However) you don’t want to quarantine yourself in your house,” Smith-Griffin said. “If you have to be outdoors, sometimes wearing a mask will help.”

When you came back inside after being out, remove your clothes, take a shower, and put on fresh clothes, she said.

Over-the-counter medications, including saline nasal sprays as well as the vast array of antihistamines currently available, are normally sufficient to effectively control the symptoms of hay fever, Smith-Griffin said.

“I would suggest using one of the over-the-counter antihistamines,” she said. ‘If those don’t work, then you should certainly come in (to see a doctor) and consider using prescription medication.”

Using an antihistamine continuously through hay fever season doesn’t pose any real health risk, according to Smith-Griffin.

“I think the main risk would be dry mouth,” she said, adding that drowsiness is also a common side effect.

Avoiding tobacco smoke also helps control allergies, Smith-Griffin said.

 

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