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As seasons change allergies endure

Birur Chandra, MD, explains the differences in seasonal allergies.

Seasonal allergies are generally associated with springtime flowers and mowed summer lawns. But Bridgeport Hospital clinicians warn that the colder months bring unique allergy concerns as well.

“When it comes to allergies, there are differences among all four seasons,” said Birur Chandra, MD, a Bridgeport Hospital allergist who practices at the Milford Campus. “When it comes to autumn ragweed is the most common allergen. People call it goldenrod or careless weed.”

Ragweed can cause a number of different reactions for allergy sufferers, ranging from itchy eyes to breathing problems.

“Ragweed allergens can irritate the nose or eyes, produce an asthmatic response or even cause a skin reaction,” he said. “Skin reactions can sometimes go overlooked, but the ragweed can cause an eczema-like skin condition.

Nasal symptoms, however, tend to stand out over the others with respect to outdoor allergens.

Allergy sufferer Kelly Nicholson of Stratford agrees, saying the autumn months wreak havoc on her sinuses. “I have allergies all year, but when the seasons change, especially from summer to fall, that’s when it gets bad for me,” she said. “We have pets and they don’t aggravate my symptoms, so we know that I’m allergic to outdoor allergens. I can feel the pressure in my head start to build up and I know it’s time to start treating it.”

For others, the cooler temperatures lead to a different set of allergens.

“When it gets colder people head indoors, and we see an increase in allergens related to pet dander and dust mites. Your furnace can be a major irritant,” Dr. Chandra said.

Regardless of the time of year, the treatment for seasonal allergies is the same. Antihistamines are good for managing the symptoms, but Dr. Chandra advises taking care of the underlying problem. “In the fall season, you want to avoid weeds or remove them,” he said.

If you’re unsure of your sensitivity to a particular allergen, Dr. Chandra recommends contacting your primary care provider or an allergist. “We perform what is called a prick test,” he said. “We take a sample of the allergen and place it just under the surface of the skin. We will see a local reaction if the patient is allergic to the sample.”

Once the allergy is identified, a number of treatment options are available.

“If the patient is not currently taking an antihistamine, we suggest trying one first,” Dr. Chandra offered. “Nowadays there are many over-the-counter antihistamines patients can try to see which one works best for them.”

Chronic allergy sufferers are different, often experiencing symptoms beyond the traditional itchy eyes and runny nose. They can develop an inflammation of the sinus cavity, which Dr. Chandra said would require the addition of a decongestant. “This is also available over-the-counter, but you will have to ask for it from the pharmacy because it contains ephedrine,” he said.

Prescription and topical antihistamines are available as well. Dr. Chandra said that allergy sufferers should consult with their doctor to ensure that they get the treatment best suited to their type of allergy and symptoms. Autumn-specific allergies, he said, will typically get better as we go through winter.

If you think allergies are behind your symptoms and would like to speak with an expert, call Bridgeport Hospital at 888-357-2396.