Chesterton Tribune



Allergy sufferers already feeling spring's arrival

Back To Front Page


The Indianapolis Star

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Troy Allen woke up one day late last week with a terrible sinus headache and knew from experience this was no cold.

For now, the 39-year-old Eminence man has a headache with sinus pressure, but he knows as the season progresses, his symptoms will change to itchy, watery eyes and a lot of nose-blowing. All this, despite a daily allergy pill he takes to ward off what he can.

“Normally it’s not this bad this early,” Allen told The Indianapolis Star. “Today I’ve been eating a cocktail of whatever I can find.”

Spring’s arrival has a dark side for those who suffer from allergies: The same blooming trees and green grasses that shout new life bring with them itchy eyes, coughing and sneezing.

And this year, some experts predict, will be worse than ever.

Indianapolis likely will not be immune. The city recently ranked 59th on the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America’s 100 worst cities for allergies.

That might not sound bad but ponder that last year - which many with allergies considered a pretty dismal season - Indianapolis came in 79th.

Still, experts such as Dr. Maria Ermitano say that after the long winter they have not seen as many people coming through the office as at this point last year.

“It’s definitely not as bad as last year because we had a good long freeze,” said Ermitano of the Geist Center for Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. “I don’t think it’s going to be worse than last year. Last year was a very bad year for a lot of people, but I wouldn’t say it’s the worst year.”

This is about the time that allergy patients start to flock to their doctors, said Dr. Michael Nader, a primary care physician with Olio Road Family Care. Nader said he resists predicting what the next few weeks will bring.

“There’s really no way to accurately predict how bad the season’s going to be,” he said. “There’s all sorts of speculation, but usually until it really hits, there’s no way to know, just like with the flu.”

An unseasonably warm winter caused last year’s allergy season to start much earlier. That’s one of the factors that could contribute to how bad this year’s allergy season turns out to be, said Dr. Warren Filley, chairman of the committee overseeing the National Allergy Bureau for the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology.

Global warming also might play a role, Filley said. Warmer temperatures have led to an increase in carbon dioxide, which spurs plants to grow. Theoretically, that also would lead to higher pollen counts.

“Plants do respond in certain ways. When a plant is happy . . . next year it will reward you with lots of pollen,” said Filley, a practicing allergist in Oklahoma City, where the tree pollen counts have been higher this year than they’ve been in a number of years.

The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America factors in the previous year’s pollen counts when putting together the top 100 list, looking at more than 300 cities across the country. The group also considers how much medicine people use and the number of allergists per person in the city, said Angel Waldron, a spokeswoman for the Foundation.

Jackson, Miss., was ranked as the worst U.S. city for people with allergies. Midwestern cities such as Louisville, Ky., St. Louis and Dayton, Ohio, ranked higher than Indianapolis.

Although Indianapolis remains in the bottom half of the list, people here should not feel complacent, Waldron said.

“Anywhere on our ranking is a challenge,” she said. “We don’t want people to feel if they’re toward the bottom, they’re one of the best.”

Allen can take comfort in the knowledge that he’s doing exactly what doctors say people with allergies should do: Medicate at the first sign the seasonal allergies have returned.

Once an allergic reaction starts, the body’s immune system revs up. The body first releases substances called histamine. Those soon result in the release of other cells that produce more symptoms, not unlike a fire spreading rapidly through a forest, Filley said.

Anyone who had allergies last year should be watching now to make sure they start taking their medicine as soon as necessary, Ermitano said.

“The worst thing that people can do who have allergies is to wait until the allergies are bad,” she said.

No matter how miserable it seems, however, allergy sufferers should keep in mind that this too shall pass. And for those who are not suffering, their day may come.

Each year, Allen and his neighbor, who also has spring allergies, remark on how they can be miserable on completely different days.

That difference from person to person, Filley said, also might explain why some experts made such dire predictions for this year while others did not.

“It’s always the worst year if it’s bothering you,” he said. “Every year is a bad year if you’re being hammered.”


Posted 4/8/2013