Congestion, runny noses, sneezing, itchy eyes. Oh, the joys of late summer, when Midlanders get to experience the peak of ragweed and other weed pollens.
Cassandra Howe, 22, spends a lot of time outside walking, running and playing with her dogs. Taking Benadryl regularly, she said, helps her get rid of the itchy eyes and sneezing she deals with because of her allergies. “I still have the stuffy nose,” Howe said, “but that’s bearable.”
Howe was speaking this week from the Bellevue office of Dr. Linda Ford, an allergist who oversees the metro area’s pollen-counting station.
This year, Ford said, is “a standard bad year. Many people are having problems” with their allergies.
Howe’s allergies include ragweed, nettle, dust mites and mold spores.
Rain, especially heavy rain, temporarily cleanses some of the pollen from the air and washes off some pollen from the collectors in the pollen-counting station, Ford said. The heavy rains Tuesday night likely were the reason Wednesday’s weed pollen count dipped below the “high” category for the first time since Aug. 8.
The ragweed season typically begins within a couple days of Aug. 15 and peaks about a month later, said Dr. Brett Kettelhut, an Omaha-based allergist who has offices throughout the region. Pollen will continue to cause problems until we get several hard, killing frosts, he said.
Kettelhut recommends that allergy sufferers keep the windows of their houses and cars closed and stay inside as much as possible. He said saline eye drops and nose sprays also help. Nonsedating antihistamines are good, Kettelhut said, as are nasal steroids, which now are available without a prescription.
People who have been outside for long periods should rinse their faces when they come inside and shower in the evening. “Keep ‘the great outdoors’ outdoors,” he said.
Fall is mold season, Kettelhut said. “That causes a lot of problem with patients with asthma.”
Mold already has been a problem, Ford said. The wet weather has been “wonderful for the mold,” she said, noting that the molds that are present now aren’t as troublesome as the alternaria mold that was common in the drought year of 2012. That black mold grows on the blades of grass that has gone dormant.
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