Sneezin's Greetings: Allergy Season Arrives Early

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Going to sleep without showering could be making your allergies worse.

In fact, Dr. Pete Zonakis, a local allergist, recommended showering before turning the lights out.

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Seven-year-old Trygve Stonefield loves to work in the garden with his mother, Angie Ferris. Like many Rim country residents, Trygve suffers from seasonal allergies. Heavier-than-average rainfall is causing grass and weeds to grow faster and earlier, adding more allergens in the air.

Otherwise pollen shakes out of your hair and builds up on bed linens. More allergens mean worse allergies.

"People who are sensitive to cedar or juniper pollen should shower and wash their hair before going to bed each night," Zonakis said. "That way, they are washing all the pollen away."

Allergy season is nearly upon Rim country residents and Zonakis encouraged anyone prone to sneezes and sniffles to take precautions early.

Juniper pollen peaks in mid-March, but this year Zonakis said allergies are starting earlier and could be more severe because of all the rain.

The excess water has prevented the trees from shedding while encouraging grasses and weeds to grow faster, which means more irritants in the air.

Seven-year-old Trygve Stonefield and his mother were shopping for garden supplies at Plant Fair Nursery Monday. Like many Rim country children, Trygve suffers from seasonal allergies.

"He's got allergies to environmental things like pollens, but there's no letting that stop him," Trygve's mother, Angie Ferris said. "He loves to work in the garden -- he's garden crazy. He's been begging for his own garden tools and he's got his own garden spot. So we've had him on Flonase since he was four."

Medications like Flonase and Allegra have helped allergy sufferers like Trygve enjoy their outdoor hobbies.

"He tells people he's an outdoor boy," Ferris said. "He plays T-ball, works in the garden and just loves being outside."

To further combat allergens, Zonakis suggested investing in a car duster, and the doctor recommends donning a filtration mask to prevent irritants from invading your sinuses.

If you do suffer from severe, even minor allergies, Zonakis said there are steps you can take in the coming days to make your life more bearable.

"If you have allergies, it's best to always limit your exposure on windy days. The better time to enjoy the outdoors is later in the evening," Zonakis said.

Make sure furnaces have new filters that filters allergens -- it will say so on the label. These filters cost about $15 from lumber, building supply and hardware stores.

Portable, stand-alone filters are great for individual rooms and cost between $150 to $200, but Zonakis warns against adding excess moisture.

"Don't use your humidifier. Dust mites love humidity," he said.

Allergy shots are necessary for some allergy sufferers. Shots are usually given once a week for the first year and then spread out every two to three weeks.

For those who hate needles, have unpredictable schedules or live in remote areas, sublingual drops are available. These drops are the preferred treatment in Europe even though they are slower acting.

Zonakis estimated that it takes about 18 months for the treatment to come even with the effectiveness of shots.

For more information, call the allergy hotline at the National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at (301) 496-5717 or visit the institute's website at www.niaid.nih.gov.

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