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The Suburbanite
  • Sunnier skies ahead for seasonal allergy sufferers

  • Fall is only a few weeks old, but already it has been a miserable time for many allergy sufferers.

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  • Fall is only a few weeks old, but already it has been a miserable time for many allergy sufferers.
    Seasonal allergies have been worse than normal for many people, with itchy eyes, runny noses and nasal congestion as much a part of autumn as hay rides, pumpkin carving and raking leaves.
    Data compiled by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) shows that nearly 40 million Americans suffer from seasonal allergies. According to Dr. Julius Feitl, an allergist at Robinson Memoral Hospital in Kent, seasonal allergies account for about 3 percent of all clinician visits.
    The AAFA predicted worsening conditions for allergy sufferers this year and warmer temperatures through the first weeks of fall have provided support for that prognostication.
    "The trend seems to be that fall allergies have been getting slightly worse for around the past 5 years or so,” Feitl said. “The reason seems to be a longer season due to warmer temperatures overall. This means plants like ragweed – a main cause of hay fever – have a longer growing season.”
    BATTLING THE MISERY
    Any weather event, including tornadoes and hurricanes, that increase pollen in the air can exacerbate allergy suffering. Mark Johnson, chief meteorologist for WEWS-TV in Cleveland, believes some relief may be on the way for those who have spent the early portion of fall with pockets full of tissues, watery eyes and stuffed-up heads.
    "The first frost will likely kill most pollen-producing plants and that should provide some welcome relief for everybody," Johnson said. "The average date of our first frost is normally around Oct. 18 and I expect a widespread frost to be about a week or so later this year."
    In the short term, Johnson said, the continued presence of warmer weather will keep the pollen levels relatively high. Plants are still growing and producing pollen, so weed pollen is still an issue for allergy sufferers. Ragweed, one of the worst culprits in producing allergy symptoms, is mostly done.
    Common allergens in Ohio are white cedar, white clover and white poplar, all of which are common not only in the Buckeye State, but across North America.
    Both medicinal and nonpharmacologic treatment options exist. Remedies can be as simple as keeping exterior windows closed, vacuuming and dusting indoors frequently, changing out of clothes worn outside when coming indoors, and showering after being outside or before bed to limit allergens in the same. Common medications include over the counter antihistamine eye drops and antihistamine pills.
    FUTURE FORECAST
    Pollen projections for Northeast Ohio from the Weather Channel have been in the moderate range for much of the past two weeks, meaning those sensitive to pollen may feel some effects. Moderate is the middle ranking on a five-level scale used to measure pollen in the air.
    Page 2 of 2 - Weed pollen counts for the greater Cleveland area ranked high, the second-highest level, for nine straight days from Sept. 9-17, but have dropped to moderate or low levels as September has given way to October. Projections for breathing and allergy-related aches and pains are predominantly positive for the weeks ahead, meaning the worst may finally be behind those toughing it out against seasonal allergies.
    Tree and grass pollen levels have been lower than weed pollen so far this fall and weed pollen concerns remain high in warmer-weather states. For Northeast Ohio residents, the trade-off of cooler temperatures for less pollen in the air is imminent and the change can't come quickly enough for those hoping to turn the page once more on their seasonal allergies.
    Reach Andy at 330-580-8396 or andy.harris@thesuburbanite.com.
    On Twitter: @aharrisBURB