With the few warm summer months we enjoy in Vermont, it is frustrating when the symptoms of seasonal allergies interfere with outdoor activities. This year, the tree and grass pollens counts are the highest they have been in 10 years, so people may find that their symptoms are worse than usual.

Allergy symptoms include runny, itchy eyes and nose, itchy ears and throat, and nasal congestion. Individuals with asthma and allergies may also experience increased coughing and or wheezing.

Here are a few things that you can do to reduce your symptoms:

  • Do not hang your laundry out to dry – you will end up sleeping on pollen-laden sheets. HEPA (high-energy particle air) filters in the bedroom and living room can help remove pollens from the air.
  •  If possible, keep windows closed, and avoid using fans since this will just circulate pollens that have been brought indoors.
  •  The best treatment regimen depends upon your symptoms. For mild itchy eyes and nose and sneezing, try an over-the-counter non-sedating antihistamine such as Loratadine, Cetirizine, and Fexofenadine.
  • For nasal congestion, try nasal steroid sprays such as Flonase, Nasonex, Rhinocort, Nasacort, Omnaris. These are available by prescription.
  • Antihstamine eye drops and antihistamine nasal sprays can also be helpful. .

Those with severe allergies may need to use all of these medications at the same time.  If medications and environmental control are not sufficient to control symptoms, you may want to consider allergy shots.

If you experience itchy lips and tongue after eating certain raw fruits and vegetables, this is likely Oral Allergy Syndrome, which is related to your pollen allergies and occurs because some of the structural proteins in pollens such as birch, grass pollen and ragweed cross-react with these foods in raw form.

People allergic to birch pollen may experience oral symptoms when they eat raw apple, cherries, peaches, plums, or other fruits with pits. People who are allegic to grass pollen may experience discomfort eating raw carrot and oranges. Ragweed-allergic individuals may experience oral symptoms with melons.

Whatever your symptoms, there is no need to suffer through them.   Discuss them with your doctor and enjoy your summer!

Elizabeth F. Jaffe, MD, PhD, is a physician at Timberlane Allergy and Asthma Associates in South Burlington and a Clinical Associate Professor Pediatrics at the Larner College of Medicine at UVM.


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