By Samantha Prust
After Colorado’s mild winter, allergists are predicting a more severe allergy season than usual. Here’s what you need to know to alleviate symptoms and get to the root cause.
With spring comes the annual question: Will allergies be worse this year? Danielle Dial, acute nurse practitioner, has seen some unsettling signs. “I know this winter, allergies seem to have been really bad, in addition to the flu season,” she says. Dry weather conditions can make allergies symptoms worse, so many allergy sufferers will be looking to the skies for some relief, in the form of rain.
Dial has been with the critical care team at Banner Health’s North Colorado Medical Center in Greeley since 2011. As a certified asthma educator, she attends asthma and allergy lectures at National Jewish Health in Denver. Her professional focus on allergies is connected to her study of asthma. “If you have bad allergies that aren’t controlled, and you have a history of asthma,” she says, “allergies can worsen your asthma.”
Common allergies in Colorado are from grasses, such as Timothy grass, and trees, such as elm trees, boxwoods, elders and cottonwoods, as well as flowers, dust, mites and cockroaches. Yep, cockroaches. Dial says that sensitivities to cockroaches usually come up in the allergy profiles she’s done, and she’s not sure why.
Whatever it is that you’re allergic to, you need the appropriate medical regimen to tackle the problem. Sinus rinses are a first step, along with over-the-counter decongestants or antihistamines, then nasal steroids or allergy nasal sprays.
• Drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water each day.
• Get enough sleep and exercise.
• Have the ducts in your home cleaned.
• For severe cases, consider removing the carpet and curtains from your home.
• Check the pollen count before you plan outdoor activities: www.pollen.com.
Try a potential allergy remedy for at least two weeks before you try another one. “If you still have issues, see a specialist and get allergy tested,” says Dial. “Then we can look at immunotherapy.”
Another fairly new treatment are biologics, which help minimize the responses that the body puts out to allergens.
“Pretty much every patient I’ve put on one has their asthma under control,” she says. Biologics are especially effective for allergic rhinitis, commonly known as hay fever.
Another new approach to fighting allergies is sublingual immunotherapy, which can minimize allergic reactions to peanuts or other allergens. New research is being done around the hygiene hypothesis, which was proposed by David P. Strachan in the late 1980s. In a nutshell, it proposes that many people are suffering from allergies because we sanitize everything.
Researchers are looking into whether low exposure to potential allergens is suppressing the development of our immune systems. “They’ve looked at countries that don’t do as much sanitizing for their kids,” Dial says, “and it appears as though their level of allergies is actually a lot lower than ours.”
In the meantime, people suffering from allergies want help now. Follow Dial’s advice by taking the first steps to relieve your symptoms, and then move on to trying other approaches with the guidance of a practitioner. There may be a solution you haven’t yet discovered or one that is soon to be unveiled.
Check daily pollen count at www.pollen.com
The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology offers practical resources including a “virtual allergist”: www.aaaai.org
The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America offers an overview on allergies as well as access to community support: www.aafa.org/page/allergy-facts
The National Center for Biotechnology Information offers information on targeted treatments using biologics: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3154953
Samantha Prust is a Fort Collins-based freelance writer. To comment on this article, send an email to