BROOKLYN, NY (April 8, 2013) – The warm weather has finally arrived, and with the onset of Spring comes a forecast for an intense allergy season this year. Dr. Michael Marcus, an Adult and Pediatric Allergy Specialist at Maimonides Medical Center, offers a variety of strategies for coping with symptoms.

"The secret to minimizing the impact of your allergies this year is to minimize your exposure to excess pollen," Dr. Marcus notes.

A recent study released by the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology revealed that weather changes have been gradually increasing the pollen count since 2000, a trend expected to continue for the next thirty years. In addition, Superstorm Sandy left the Northeast with more humidity than normal, resulting in heightened allergy symptoms.

The Asthma & Allergy Foundation of America notes that the pollen count is at its highest in urban areas between 10am and 3pm. Dr. Marcus therefore suggests taking allergy medication in the morning, instead of waiting until you experience symptoms later in the day.

“Once symptoms present themselves, over-the-counter allergy medications are far less effective,” he points out. “You should also try delaying your outdoor activities to the evening when pollen has subsided.”

Are you safe from pollen when you remain indoors? Not necessarily, according to Dr. Marcus.

"Practices that minimize the amount of pollen entering your house are also important," he explains. “This includes taking shoes off outside, changing clothes, showering at night and keeping windows closed. Animal fur can also trap pollen, so bathing pets more often in the Spring is also advised.”

When preventative measures aren’t enough to lessen your symptoms, there are three broad categories of over-the-counter oral allergy medications to try:
  • First-generation antihistamines, while effective, often cause drowsiness; these include Diphenhydramine HCl (brand name Benadryl) and Chlorpheniramine (brand name Chlortrimeton).
  • Newer antihistamines typically do not cause the same drowsiness, and thus do not interfere with daytime activities; these include loratadine (brand name Claritin) and fexofenadine (brand name Allegra).
  • A third category of antihistamines includes cetirizine (brand name Zyrtec), which causes less drowsiness than the first-generation antihistamines, but has mild sedation properties.
“Everyone responds to these medications in different ways, so it is very important to be careful the first time you take any medicine to see how your body reacts,” says Dr. Marcus. He advises that if one medication does not work, it is worth trying another – even within the same category. Dr. Marcus cautions patients to carefully read labels to make sure the medications are truly comparable.

At what point should an allergy sufferer consult with a physician?

“If it takes a daily dose of medication to control your symptoms, or if you need two or more medications to do the job, it’s worth consulting an allergy specialist,” says Dr. Marcus. “A physician can help you decide whether prescription medications or a different treatment regimen may be a more effective solution.”

Maimonides Medical Center is Brooklyn’s pre-eminent health care provider and a recipient of the Healthgrades Distinguished Hospital Award for Clinical Excellence. According to the federal government, Maimonides is one of only 22 hospitals in the nation to achieve outstanding patient outcomes in all three categories of care that are measured annually: heart attack, heart failure and pneumonia. Widely recognized for its major achievements in advancing medical and information technology, Maimonides has 711 beds and over 70 subspecialty programs. For additional information on the nationally recognized clinical services at Maimonides Medical Center, please click here.

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