Md. allergist gives tips on surviving allergy season

WASHINGTON — If you’ve been dealing with a runny nose and watery eyes lately, you’re not alone.

Dr. Martha White, an allergist at the Institute for Asthma & Allergy in Wheaton, Maryland, says tree pollen is keeping her office very busy.

“The thing that is particularly problematic about the tree allergy season, which is March through about the middle of May, is that we get eye symptoms,” she said.

“I’m seeing a lot of people right now who not only have the runny, sneezy, itchy, congested nose … but have the swollen, red, teary eyes. Some years are worse than others. This year, I’m seeing a lot of eye symptoms, unfortunately.”

White says oak trees are big offenders.

“The oak tree produces more pollen than any other one tree does, and it pollinates for about six weeks,” she said.

If you’re a spring allergy sufferer, White suggests using allergy medications, keeping your doors and windows shut and taking action right when you get home if you spend a lot of time outside during the day.

“When you come in at the end of the day, you might want to take your shower then, rather than waiting for bedtime, so you can wash the pollen off,” she said.

Another tip: Give pets that go outside more frequent baths.

“Remember: The pet goes outside, the pollen lands on the pet, and then they turn into little pollen mops and can bring pollen in the house,” she said.

White said if you’re looking for alternatives to allergy shots, there are some new under-the-tongue forms of immunotherapy that are FDA-approved.

Grastek treats grass allergies, and Ragwitek can help those allergic to ragweed.

“It’s a pill that dissolves fairly quickly. You stick it under the tongue; it dissolves — you don’t swallow for about 30 seconds so it can get absorbed,” White said.

“It acts very similarly to allergy shots but there’s no needles involved. The disadvantage is that it’s just for ragweed, or the one for grass is just for grass.”

White adds that these medications have to be taken every day, three or four months before the allergy season starts. So if you’re allergic to ragweed, which is usually a problem in September and October, now is the time to get started.

White says many people don’t know that allergies are often inherited.

“If you and your siblings or other family members tend to have ‘colds’ at the same time every year, it’s probably allergies. About one out of every four people in this area has allergies,” she said.

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Michelle Basch

Michelle Basch is a reporter and anchor at WTOP.

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