Doctor offers solutions to the sniffles

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 17, 2005

VIDALIA, La. &045; If you’ve been sniffling and sneezing &045; or just plain feeling bad &045; you’re not alone.

Plenty of people have been suffering from that most dreaded of spring problems: pollen.

&uot;It’s an overload of pollen,&uot; Dr. John White said. &uot;You just have to see the pollen landing on cars and sidewalks to know how bad it is.&uot;

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White, an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist at the Head and Neck Clinic of Riverpark Medical Center, said he sees plenty of patients suffering from allergies about this time every year.

If you’re one of the sufferers, you probably already know the symptoms: sneezing, congestion and watery eyes. But there are others.

&uot;Some of these people just walking around with headaches and generally feeling bad, that’s allergies,&uot; White said. &uot;Sometimes it can cause an almost flu-like feeling.&uot;

It all started a few weeks ago when trees began to pollinate, sending the first wave of several to plague allergy sufferers. And it won’t be over anytime soon.

&uot;We’re unfortunate in that we have a very long pollination season. We started with the trees pollinating about four to five weeks ago. Next will be the grass and then the weeds,&uot; White said. &uot;The two main weeds around here are goldenrod and ragweed, and if you’ve been around here you’ve seen the goldenrod and it can pollinate all the way through October. So the allergy season lasts almost half a year, from early March all the way to October.&uot;

But don’t despair just yet. White has a few suggestions he gives to help his patients alleviate their allergies. The most important one is to limit exposure to pollen. If there isn’t any contact with pollen, there can’t be any allergy trouble.

For those who enjoy being in the great outdoors, White advises moving activities away from early morning and dusk, when airborne pollen is more likely to be near the ground.

&uot;The pollen falls more at those times so people get more of it,&uot; White said. &uot;If you wait to walk or run until a little later in the day the pollen rises up in the air as it warms up.&uot;

People mowing lawns or working in the garden have something else to contend with, White said. Besides the pollen they are likely to encounter, molds growing in the soil may be kicked up, causing even more allergy trouble.

&uot;They can get a double whammy,&uot; White said. &uot;I tell patients doing work outdoors as soon as they’re done to go inside, take their clothes off and take a good shower to get rid of the pollen and to use a saline spray to clean pollen out of their nose. Those mechanical means can really help.&uot;

Patients who already suffer from sinus disease or asthma may be especially susceptible to allergy problems, White said. For these patients, he often recommends air filtration devices for the home and car.

And then there’s the medicines. Use of antihistamines, a class of drugs which inhibit the symptoms of allergies, goes up considerably during allergy season, White said. For acute reactions to allergens, steroids, both oral and injected, are sometimes used.

&uot;The drug reps have been walking in here with plenty of samples and big smiles,&uot; White said. &uot;There’s a big bump in sales for allergy medicines this time of year.&uot;