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Allergy season here early, already intense

HARTFORD — The weather has finally turned around and people are looking forward to spending more time outside. For many people, though, the rebirth of those flowers and trees mean allergies.

Allergens land or get placed on the skin or mucus membranes and the body’s immune system kicks into high gear. Runny noses, watery eyes, itchy skin; it is enough to make you crazy. The interesting thing is that these are normal responses to preventing parasite worms from burrowing into our body. While the risk of parasites in the United States is low, evolutionarily this is the defense mechanism we came up with.

Antihistamines are a mainstay of therapy and there are three main ones. Diphenhydramine, the active ingredient in Benedryl, is the most effective antihistamine but it can make you sleepy. So this is a great antihistamine for bedtime but not during the day. The newer antihistamines are loratidine, the active ingredient in Claritin, and fexofenadine, the active ingredient in Allegra. They aren’t as powerful but they don’t make you sleepy and will last all day. If these drugs are not sufficient, you can spot treat any left-over symptoms. For instance, use a nasal steroid inhaler for a runny nose and an antihistamine eye drop for the itchy runny eyes. Allergy shots are a great long-term option but it may take getting the shots for four years to become fully effective.

During the day keep your hands away from your eyes or mouth; you can expose yourself to more allergens that way. If you shower when you come home from school or work and change your clothes at that time you can keep pollen and allergens off of you, especially at bedtime. Closing the windows, running the air conditioner on a high temperature setting, and using a supplemental HEPA filter in your bedroom can reduce your exposure to allergens overnight when your risk of severe allergies or asthma attack are at their highest. Replace the air filters in the heating/air conditioning system quarterly.

Honey may be effective but it has to be local honey because the trapped pollen is what desensitizes you over time. Eating honey from South America isn’t going to help you here in New England.

 – Dr. Michael White from the UConn School of Pharmacy