After a bitterly cold and snowy winter, many look forward to the warmer, breezy, sunny days of this new season, but along with the arrival of spring come the dreaded itchy eyes, scratchy ears and throat and sneezing, all symptoms of allergies.
“Tree pollen blown around by the wind is the allergen people will react to first this season, sometimes before you see the buds,” explained Dr. Catherine Monteleone, an associate professor of medicine at the UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and a board-certified allergist. “Patients already are complaining about symptoms, including runny nose, nasal congestion, sneezing, itchy eyes, ears and throat, wheezing and shortness of breath.”
People may continue to experience those symptoms into May and June, a reaction to grass pollen, not blooming flowers. “We’ve had enough precipitation for big and hardy blooms,” Monteleone said, “but how much grass pollen is produced will depend upon the weather this spring. Dry, windy days cause pollen to spread and result in more severe allergy symptoms.”
Monteleone said those beginning to experience symptoms should turn to appropriate medications before symptoms become severe. “Don’t wait until you’re miserable,” she warned. “Try over-the-counter medications and, if those don’t work, see your doctor, who can prescribe medication that may be more helpful. Don’t give up on treatment because there is something out there that will help.”
She also suggested that allergy sufferers avoid exposure to allergens. “Keep windows closed, in the car and at home, and, if necessary, keep the air conditioner on,” Monteleone said. “If you have to be outside, wear sunglasses to shield your eyes from pollen, do activities later in the day, because pollen is released early,” she added, “and, when you return home, shower, wash your hair, and change your clothes because the pollen will stick to you.”
Otherwise, avoid anything that may cause irritation, such as strong perfumes or tobacco smoke, she said.
The University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ) is the nation’s largest free-standing public health sciences university with nearly 5,700 students attending the state’s three medical schools, its only dental school, a graduate school of biomedical sciences, a school of health related professions, a school of nursing and a school of public health on five campuses. Annually, there are more than two million patient visits at UMDNJ facilities and faculty practices at campuses in Newark, New Brunswick/Piscataway, Scotch Plains, Camden and Stratford. UMDNJ operates University Hospital, a Level I Trauma Center in Newark, and University Behavioral HealthCare, a statewide mental health and addiction services network.
Source: University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ)