The long-anticipated winter thaw is just around the corner, and we will soon see sprigs of beautiful flowers and blooming buds across trees and fields in Queens. Soon, bright green leaves and colorful flowers will pop up everywhere, from Forest Park to Cunningham Park, to the boulevards and your local streets.
Amidst the beauty and exhilaration of spring is a nuisance that many of our family members suffer from all the way to summer and autumn: seasonal allergies.
Seasonal allergies attributed to the changes in the seasons are primarily due to pollen from plants and trees. Queens is mainly populated by London plane trees as well as a variety of maples. Allergy from the usually heavy pollen count during the months of March through June (much earlier in the Southern states) causes moderate to severe symptoms for more than 50 million Americans each year. That translates to boxes of tissues, millions of sneezes, itchy eyes, dripping noses, sore and raspy throats, dry mouth, itchy skin, et al.
To make matters worse, many seasonal or pollen-related allergy sufferers become sensitive and have other allergens triggered at the same time, worsening their symptoms. This means that in the springtime, many who are allergic to pollen will have heightened allergy symptoms from mold, ragweed, dust, mite, cigarette smoke, and more. An allergy sufferer’s immune system reacts to these allergy triggers, causing an immediate and sometimes prolonged immuno reaction, such as the release of histamine, triggering the allergy symptoms.
If some of the remedies are not helping you or your family, please consult your physician. Your doctor may order an allergy test (usually via simple blood work or skin test). If over-the-counter allergy medications fail to relieve symptoms, your physician may order a more aggressive approach such as one or more of the following:
• Allergy shots
• Mast cell inhibitors/ cromolyn sodium (Nasalcrom)
• Leukotriene inhibitors (Singulair)
• Nebulizer therapy
Here are some simple remedies and ways to avoid allergy symptoms:
• Close windows and doors of the house at all times.
• Discourage children from bringing clothing and footwear exposed to the outdoors inside the house, especially the bedroom, where pollen and other allergens could settle. This includes school bags, hats, jackets, etc.
• Vacuum and wipe down the household daily. Monitor household family members’ foot traffic after coming from outside.
• Wash clothes frequently. On the side of precaution, use hypoallergenic detergents.
• Use mild saline rinse or spray to clean the nostrils
• Use over-the-counter medication such as Zyrtec, Allegra, Claritin, and Benedryl.
Always check instruction labels and consult your pharmacist and health provider.
Strengthen the immune system by decreasing stress, as well as getting adequate sleep, good nutrition, and sufficient hydration.
For severe allergy sufferers, using a mask outdoors may help alleviate some of the symptoms.
Dr. Marigold Castillo is board-certified by the American Academy of Pediatrics, and is an assistant professor of Pediatrics at the Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell. She is an attending physician at Cohen Children’s Medical Center, specializing in Adolescent Medicine. She is a medical officer/ contractor at the United States Merchant Marine Academy and for the NYC Board of Education’s school-based health centers.