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Allergy season is in full bloom

05/02/2011 in news

The misery of spring allergies is in full bloom.

"It's been bananas. They are really suffering. People can't go to work. They can't sleep. They can't go to work because they can't sleep", said Dr. Avi Deener, an allergist/immunologist with WESTMED Medical Group who practices in Rye and West Harrison.

Welcome to the peak of oak and birch pollen season, said Guy Robinson, a Fordham University biology professor who runs the pollen-monitoring station at the Louis Calder Center in Armonk.

Sunday's pollen count of 6,700 particles per cubic meter set a record this year and is one of highest in the past two years, Robinson said. Anything over 1,500 is considered very high.

"We were hitting 4,000 about a week ago", he said Monday. "I knew it was going to keep climbing as long as it didn't rain."

And don't expect relief yet, Robinson said.

"I would predict that if the weather stays like this, we'll be looking at very high numbers the rest of the week", he said.

Experts have said flowering trees got off to a sluggish start due to the damp and chilly spring.

But this month's warmer temperatures and clear skies mean plenty of pollen  and explosive allergies.

"The difference this year is the intensity. People are so frustrated and suffering, they can't even wait a day to come in", said Dr. Steven Sockin, a New City allergist and co-chief of immunology at Good Samaritan Hospital in Suffern. He noted an increase in asthma symptoms among patients.

Dr. John County, an allergist/immunologist with ENT and Allergy Associates in Sleepy Hollow and Yorktown, said many of his patients are especially suffering from itchy eyes this year.

"I would definitely say that this month has been the worst month I've seen in a long time", he said.

Because the allergy season was delayed, some people may not have prepared for it, County said.

He advises his patients to start taking medication before they have symptoms.

"Once your body starts having a response, it's harder for medication to control it", he said.

But popping antihistamines from the local pharmacy won't cut it with a season this severe, doctors said.

"As the allergy season goes on, you get more and more allergic", Sockin said. "Antihistamines that might have worked in the beginning may not as the season progresses."

Deener said oral antihistamines tend to lose their effectiveness if taken for a while, and, over time, more of the drug may be needed to block histamine receptors in the body.

"It doesn't always happen, but it happens enough that those are the people I see", he said.

Deener said they should be taken along with nasal steroids and eye drops to really alleviate symptoms.

Sockin agreed that nasal sprays and eye drops have to also be used, but there are patients "still breaking through all these because the (pollen) counts are so extreme.",

Jasmine Clayton, 21 of Yonkers said her spring allergies cause nasal congestion, bad headaches and difficulty breathing.

She takes an antihistamine and uses an inhaler and nebulizer for her asthma.

Even with all that, "I'm barely relieved", she said.

Virginia Capozi of New Rochelle said two kinds of over-the-counter antihistamines haven't gotten rid of her congestion.

"I think it's just a really, really bad season, and nothing is going to work", Capozi said, adding that she is considering nasal strips to help her breathe at night.

Rachel Schaefer, 23 of Purchase said she was prescribed steroids on Monday when the nasal spray, an inhaler and eye drops didn't work.

"This weekend was a killer, even on all the medications", she said. "One of my eyes swelled shut. My breathing is really shallow and wheezy ... just not fun."

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