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'Tis the season for allergies

May 22, 2012
By KYLE WHITNEY - Journal Staff Writer ( , The Mining Journal

MARQUETTE -Temperatures have climbed and plants have started blooming recently, but spring isn't the only thing in the air.

As evidenced by sneezing strangers and yellowing vehicles, pollen season - allergy season - is here too.

Spring, when tree pollen is most prevalent, is one of the worst times of the year for allergies, according to Dr. Bobby Joseph, a board certified allergist who has practiced in Marquette since 1992.

Article Photos

Dandelions can cause allergic reactions in some people. Those who are allergic to ragweed or similar plants are likely allergic to dandelions. (Journal photo by Adelle Whitefoot)

"Right now, we're dealing with tree pollen allergies," said Joseph, who added that he sees a clear uptick in allergy sufferers in the spring. "Spring arrived a little early, so we're having a pretty powerful tree pollen season right now."

Joseph said allergies drive people through his door from spring to fall. Tree pollen is prevalent in the spring, while grass pollen dominates the summer months and ragweed pollen causes allergic reactions throughout the fall, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

But Joseph said the spring - when pollen drifts off elm, birch, maple and oak trees - is the worst.

The allergies can manifest differently in different people, and can cause runny nose, watery eyes, sneezing fits, itching, skin hives, eczema and even wheezing or trouble breathing.

Joseph said there are three levels to allergy treatment. The first is environmental control, which can be difficult when it comes to airborne pollen. Joseph suggests closing all windows and taking a shower at the end of each day, and warns against drying clothes outdoors. He also tells allergy sufferers to stay indoors as much as possible from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., which is when pollen counts tend to be at their highest.

If those subtle changes can't stave off allergies, Joseph said medication may be the next step. Varying degrees medication can be purchased either over the counter or by prescription, with the "gold standard" being a nasal steroid spray, according to Joseph.

The third and final option for allergy sufferers is desensitization shots, which are injections containing the allergen. Over a period of months, shot recipients build an immunity to the allergen.

Joseph said the bottom line is that if allergies are hard to get under control - and if over-the-counter medicines don't work - you should consult a doctor, who will be able to tell you what, exactly, you are allergic to and can work through options with you.

And though many think of allergy symptoms as being very obvious, that isn't always the case, Joseph said. Occasionally, people will fail to recognize that they have allergies - to the detriment of their health.

"People who suffer from long-lingering colds attribute it to one cold after the other," he said. "If you have a cold that just won't go away, you could possibly be suffering from allergies."

Those with underlying allergies tend to be more susceptible to other ailments, according to Joseph.

Kyle Whitney can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250.



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