By Eric Tegethoff
Washington News Service
SEATTLE – It’s the beginning of April, which means flowers are blooming, pollen is plentiful, and allergy sufferers are feeling the itchy effects.
There are some simple solutions for sufferers, though.
Doctor Mark La Shell, allergist-immunologist with Group Health, says people should start by avoiding allergens like tree and grass pollen.
If that doesn’t work, patients can take two different medication routes. First, they should try fast-acting antihistamines.
“If those aren’t working, just in the past year a lot of very good nasal sprays also became available over-the-counter,” says La Shell. “Those are all actually more effective than the antihistamines, but they’re slower. They take two or three weeks, sometimes longer, of everyday use before they start to work.”
La Shell says those options include Flonase, Rhinocort, and Nasacort.
Indoor allergy sources, such as pet dandruff and mold, can also be a source of the sniffles, adding to the effect of outside allergies.
If a person’s sensitivity is severe enough, a more drastic measure than medication can be taken. Allergen immunotherapy requires an intensive round of shots a few times a week for three to six months, but La Shell says it’s highly effective.
“When they’re appropriately selected for the right patient, they’ll help 80 percent of patients,” he says. “That’s based on the literature. In my own experience it seems like more than that.”
Seasonal allergies affect more than 35 million people in the U.S. La Shell says allergic disorders have increased across the whole population over the last 25 years.