Thursday, August 16, 2018
Health

Allergy sufferers face longer, more severe pollen seasons

It really is the worst pollen season ever.

Every spring I tell patients this is the worst pollen season ever and it seems like hyperbole. It really isn’t. Pollen seasons across the world are becoming longer and more severe. Allergy seasons typically vary by region and with changing weather patterns. Florida is unique in that it is a perennial pollen state. Because we rarely, if ever, experience a hard freeze, there are plants pollinating 12 months out of the year. Most of them follow a predictable pollination schedule. Trees begin pollinating in the spring, which in our part of Florida can begin by mid-January. This is followed by grasses, which typically pollinate in the summer. Weeds follow in the fall. In our part of Florida, February through April is the most severe pollen season due to extremely high volumes of tree pollen.

Pollen is the culprit, not just the plant. Pollen carries a plant’s DNA from the stamen, the male part of the plant, to the pistil, the female part of the plant. Pollination allows plants to reproduce. Plants, like flowers, are pollinated by insects moving the pollen from the stamen to the pistil and so are not usually a problem for allergic people. Trees, grasses and weeds release large volumes of pollen particles into the air, which are transported by wind. Some pollen particles successfully pollinate other plants, but the vast majority end up on the ground and all over your car. Plants that wind-pollinate are the ones that wreak havoc on people with allergies. Pollen carried by wind can travel hundreds of miles, which is why removing plants you may be allergic to is not always helpful.

When the mucosal tissues of the nose, eyes and lungs encounter pollen carried by the wind, an allergic response occurs. Allergic rhinitis symptoms include runny nose, sneezing, itchy, watery eyes, an itchy throat and nasal congestion. Allergic asthma symptoms can include wheezing, coughing and shortness of breath. An allergist can help identify what you are allergic to so that you can try to avoid those triggers.

Avoiding pollen is pretty tough, especially in beautiful Florida. I generally recommend that you leave your car and home windows closed all the time, but this is especially important when pollen counts are high. Using a HEPA air filter in your AC and changing it regularly can help minimize the amount of pollen that enters your home. Pollen counts are highest between 5 and 10 a.m. and on dry, windy days, so people with allergies should avoid exercising outdoors then. If you must be outdoors when pollen counts are high, be sure to change clothes and wash your hair before you go to sleep so that pollen from your clothing and hair doesn’t get into your bed. Also beware that pets can bring pollen into the home after being outdoors. Wipe them with a damp cloth when they come back inside and bathe them more frequently in pollen season.

Several medications can help manage allergy symptoms and bring relief:

• Antihistamines are excellent for runny, sneezy, itchy symptoms. There are many over-the-counter options that won’t cause severe drowsiness.

• Decongestants are best for congestion but carry risk for people with hypertension.

• Nasal steroid sprays are excellent for most symptoms of allergic rhinitis but must be used consistently and daily for optimal results.

• Allergy eye drops can be beneficial when used in combination with other allergy medications.

• Allergen immunotherapy, a.k.a. allergy shots, can help desensitize and potentially cure, while also preventing development of new allergies and asthma. This treatment requires a time commitment, with weekly buildup injections for four to six months followed by monthly maintenance injections for three to five years. This is not a quick fix but it can offer a cure so that medications will not be required.

Pollen can cause a lot of misery. It can disturb your sleep, restrict your lifestyle and make you sick. If these tips don’t help, and you are still suffering, consider talking with an allergist.

Dr. Mona V. Mangat is a board-certified allergist and immunologist at Bay Area Allergy & Asthma in St. Petersburg. Find her at bayallergy.com. Contact her at [email protected]

Comments
The hardest part: actually choosing the day of his death. ‘No one is ever really ready.’

The hardest part: actually choosing the day of his death. ‘No one is ever really ready.’

In the end, it wasn’t easy for Aaron McQ to decide when to die.The 50-year-old Seattle man — a former world traveler, triathlete and cyclist — learned he had leukemia five years ago, followed by an even grimmer diagnosis in 2016: a rare form of amyot...
Published: 08/15/18
Tampa General ranked Florida’s second-best hospital in U.S. News study

Tampa General ranked Florida’s second-best hospital in U.S. News study

Tampa General Hospital was ranked as Florida’s second-best hospital in the U.S. News and World Report’s 2018 Hospital Rankings released Tuesday, while Moffitt Cancer Center was named the country’s eighth-best cancer hospital.The rankings, which analy...
Published: 08/14/18
Updated: 08/15/18
Florida Hospital to change its name to AdventHealth

Florida Hospital to change its name to AdventHealth

Beginning next year, the Florida Hospital brand will be known as AdventHealth.The Central Florida-based health care chain, which has nearly 50 hospital campuses and more than 80,000 employees, including seven hospitals around Tampa Bay, announced the...
Published: 08/14/18
Life skills, love shared at GiGi’s

Life skills, love shared at GiGi’s

TAMPA — Learning, life skills and love are offered unconditionally at GiGi’s Playhouse Tampa, a Down syndrome achievement center opening Saturday.Specially-designed therapeutic, educational and career development programs are provided for all ages, a...
Published: 08/13/18
Updated: 08/15/18
Pinellas health officials report measles in an unvaccinated child

Pinellas health officials report measles in an unvaccinated child

An unvaccinated child has contracted the contagious measles virus in Pinellas County, according to the Florida Department of Health, which said Monday it is investigating the case. It was unclear how the child contracted the virus, according to the h...
Published: 08/13/18
CVS offering 24-hour ‘virtual care’ on its app to treat minor illnesses

CVS offering 24-hour ‘virtual care’ on its app to treat minor illnesses

Florida residents seeking treatment for minor health problems can now take advantage of a new, quick, virtual service from CVS Health’s MinuteClinic.The new service, called MinuteClinic Video Visits, will provide patients with video access to health-...
Published: 08/09/18
Lyme disease is on the rise in Florida, but experts don’t know why

Lyme disease is on the rise in Florida, but experts don’t know why

When Jackie Dube found circular rashes with bullseye points on her stomach, she went to the hospital. Doctors told her she had an allergic reaction to flea bites. A year later, she became seriously ill. Flu-like symptoms and chronic joint pain would ...
Published: 08/08/18
Updated: 08/09/18
Next generation: Many younger doctors like the idea of universal health care

Next generation: Many younger doctors like the idea of universal health care

When the American Medical Association — one of the nation’s most powerful health care groups — met in Chicago this June, its medical student caucus seized an opportunity for change.Though they had tried for years to advance a resolution calling on th...
Published: 08/08/18
Plant City therapy dog brightens days for kids

Plant City therapy dog brightens days for kids

PLANT CITY — When Kaleb French first visited therapy dog Bonnie at the library, he was too shy to read aloud to her. Instead, his mother read to the dog. Eventually, he began whispering the words to her.Now, the 7-year-old’s voice echoes through the ...
Published: 08/07/18
Updated: 08/09/18
Popular blood pressure medicine made in China is recalled

Popular blood pressure medicine made in China is recalled

The Food and Drug Administration has announced a voluntary recall of a widely prescribed blood pressure medication made in China, reviving fears about the safety of imported drugs.Three companies that sell the generic drug, valsartan, in the United S...
Published: 08/07/18