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December 16th, 2018

Seasonal Allergies


Every springtime 35-40 million Americans struggle with the problem of seasonal allergies. Allergies are one of the most common reasons that people miss or underperform at work or school. They are thought to be responsible for 10,000 school absences daily.
The incidence of allergy is 10% in children below 10 years of age, but doubles in the child’s next 10 years. So it may be wishful thinking to hope that the child will outgrow the problem. But, on a brighter note, studies show that allergic kids who are treated do better at school than those who are not.



Seasonal allergies are typically triggered by pollen, tree pollen in early spring, with grass pollen causing problems in late May or June. Here, in Erie, there is little problem with mold until later in the season. Finally, ragweed becomes the offender in August and September.


When a sensitized allergic individual comes in contact with pollen, an immunologic reaction occurs that releases mediators, which, in turn, cause symptoms.



The most common allergic symptoms are nasal stuffiness, runny nose, watery eyes, sneezing, coughing, itchy eyes and nose, and dark under-eye circles. These symptoms interfere with restful sleep producing next-day tiredness and difficulty in thinking. Additionally, asthma patients who have allergies may experience an increase in their asthma symptoms during the allergy season


Allergic tendency runs in families. But specific symptoms and triggering allergens can vary among the family members depending on each individual’s exposure and other factors currently under investigation.
The three ways to address allergy are avoidance, medication, and immunotherapy (“allergy shots”).



Most importantly, don’t let the pollen get to you!

  • Keep doors and windows closed to reduce indoor pollen.
    Keep car windows closed and set the ventilator to “recirculate” to minimize the vehicle’s pollen intake.
    Avoid hanging clothes outside to dry; this gives pollen a “free ride” into your home.
    Especially avoid mowing lawns and raking leaves, activities that only stir up pollen and molds.
    Minimize outdoor work on heavy pollen days, and wear a mask.
    When returning home from outdoors on heavy pollen days, shower, wash hair, and change clothing to avoid transferring the sticky pollen into your home.


In general, pollen counts are highest on dry windy days and lowest on rainy days. Fortunately, you can learn the specific pollen count by listening to the local weather forecast or by consulting the website of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology at This website even has an “app” that you can download to your smart phone!



For mild cases of seasonal allergy, you may find it helpful to try nonsedating over-the-counter, known as “OTC,” antihistamines. But it is better to avoid those antihistamines that can cause drowsiness as well as oral decongestants that can cause tremors or aggravate hypertension and glaucoma. Be aware also that decongestant nasal sprays can cause rebound swelling of the nasal passages, especially if used improperly or for more than seven days. Of course, if symptoms persist, you should see your primary care doctor who can treat you with prescription nasal sprays and/or eye drops.



If even prescription medications fail to control symptoms or if these medications must be taken for an extended period of time, it may be time to consult a specialist physician called an allergist. If the allergist thinks that immunotherapy is appropriate, he or she can initiate skin and/or blood tests to identify the specific problematic allergen or allergens and begin the appropriate injections to help create immunization against them.


With the treatments now available people should enjoy the spring comfortably. So don’t suffer in silence. You can reduce the problem of seasonal allergies.


The Erie County Medical Society wishes you a pleasant welcome to the nicer weather and a springtime free of seasonal allergies.


Thomas Falasca, DO

Philip Gallagher, MD

For further information please see:

Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America at

Allergy and Asthma Network Mothers of Asthmatics at

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