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Health Team

Spring allergy season just beginning

Posted April 10
Updated April 15

Jenny Ellis recently learned she has asthma, and her spring allergies only make the symptoms worse.

“Lots of bleary eyes, runny noses, coughing,” she said.

More than half of spring allergy sufferers respond well to over-the-counter antihistimines. Even simple nasal saline sprays or washes may help. If those don't work, your doctor may prescribe stronger prescription medications.

“If they're having more significant symptoms and not getting good control with more commonly prescribed medications - even nasal steroid sprays as well - that's a good time to see the allergist,” said Dr. Heather Gutekunst with Allergy Partners of Raleigh.

Ellis recently had a skin test, also known as a scratch test. She’s pricked with needles that each contain specific allergens, and the results can be determined after just 15 minutes.

“I'm allergic to pollen, grass, lots of mold and lots of trees,” she said.

With confirmed allergies, patients can begin a series of allergy shots.

“Basically, what we're doing is retraining the body's immune system so that it doesn't recognize the pollens as a danger,” Gutekunst said.

Ellis is receiving one to two shots per week for six months, then one shot per month for three to five years.

Most patients will notice lasting improvement for 20 years or longer.

Ellis said she will be thankful for immediate relief.

“I hope it will make my life a whole lot easier to take,” she said.

Dr. Allen Mask of the WRAL Health Team explained that tree pollen is at the peak of its season right now. Grass pollen peaks in May.

“Allergy sufferers often have problems with these and other allergens, like mold and dust mites, all the way from Valentine’s Day until Thanksgiving Day,” Mask said.

Mask said allergy sufferers should keep their car and house windows closed, stay inside until after 10 a.m., when pollen counts begin to drop, and change clothes and shower after coming indoors.

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