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ing plant or pollinating grass can also trigger allergies.
Fortunately, since the climate here is fairly dry, mold
is not that common a culprit. Also, dog and cat hair
is a frequent culprit that should not be overlooked.”
The evergreens are abundant at 8,000 feet and above,
and aspen groves (which also produce pollen) are
absolutely everywhere in Vail and Beaver Creek. In
Avon and westward, however, the slopes are coated
in sagebrush and the valley floor and Eagle River
corridor are teeming with willows. If you’re in
doubt of the prevalence of pollen in the Vail
Valley, simply park your car next to a pine
tree, willow or thatch of sagebrush for
an hour in May or June (depending on
the snow thaw and ensuing bloom)
and it will literally be caked in a yel-
low dust by the time you get back.
If you are allergic to pollen
specifically — even though it’s not
that specific because pollen comes
from so many different trees and
plants — you have what is referred
to as hay fever, characterized by
sneezing, runny nose, scratchy throat
and watery, itchy eyes. For people
allergic to pet dander, spring and sum-
mer is also when shedding happens and
animal hair is floating around in abundance.
the onset
While some individuals develop allergies as chil-
dren, others take them on suddenly, even in areas
where they have lived their entire lives, exposed
to pollen that never bothered them before.
“People with a personal history of aller-
gies are certainly more prone to getting
them again and they can run in families,” Dr.
Lipton says. “People who have asthma or
eczema in childhood can also be more prone
to allergies through their lifetime. Otherwise
it can be hard to predict where and when al-
lergies develop. Just like people can suddenly
develop an allergy to a medication they have
been taking for years, people can suddenly develop
allergies to dust and pollen in the environment.”
Those who are new to seasonal allergies might
mistake them for a spring cold or virus. The tell-
tale difference is that allergies stick around.
“Allergy symptoms and upper respiratory
infection symptoms can be very similar
– runny/stuffy nose, sore throat, and
sneezing. Seasonal allergies, however,
tend to me more persistent and last
longer. Seasonal allergies do not
include fever or severe sore throat,
and coughing is much less com-
mon. Antihistamines can help the
symptoms either way but are more
effective with seasonal allergies.”
When you are allergic to some-
thing such as pollen or pet dander,
your body produces histamines, a
chemical that causes your nasal and
eye membranes to swell. Antihistamines
shut down this process and prevent symp-
toms. There are a number of over-the-counter
antihistamines available, but finding the one that
works best for you can involve a trial and error process.
“Second generation antihistamine medications
like Allegra, Zyrtec or Claritin — or their gener-
ic equivalents — are popular because they
work well and are generally non-sedating,”
Dr. Lipton says. “Other antihistamines
like Diphenhydramine or Chlorphenira-
mine work very well but are gener-
ally very sedating. If symptoms are
mainly nasal, a steroid nasal spray
like Fluticasone can work wonders. If
symptoms are mainly ocular — itchy,
watery eyes — antihistamine eye
drops can work well. The localized
treatments like eye or nose drops are
less likely to cause systemic side effects.”
Medication affects each individual
differently and sometimes a person
can try several products and still not be
relieved of symptoms. This is when track-
ing symptoms and history of one’s condition with
an internal medicine doctor can be useful.
“If symptoms are severe or don’t respond
to usual treatments, the next step is test-
ing or referral to an allergist. I can order
blood panels that check for antibodies
to common allergens. An allergist can
do patch testing on the skin to dis-
cover the problem,” Dr. Lipton says.
Sometimes it takes medication
several days to begin fighting symp-
toms effectively, so it’s important to
know when your symptoms are the
worst and begin taking medicine be-
forehand as a preventative measure, then
continue it throughout allergy season.
“It can take some experimentation to
see which medication works best,” Dr. Lip-
ton says. “If someone has testing that indicates
a specific allergen, a series of allergy shots from
a specialist can really help with symptoms.”
Just like people
can suddenly develop
an allergy to a
medication they have
been taking for years,
people can suddenly
develop allergies to
dust and pollen in the
Diphenhydramine or
Steroid nasal
spray Fluticasone
eye drops
Allegra, Zyrtec
or Claritin
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