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Spring allergies pose problems for students

04/28/2010
By:

Allison England

Staff Writer

All across Southern’s campus, tissues are in high demand, red eyes are a common sight and sneezes echo throughout the hallways. Spring has arrived and with it comes the seasonal allergies.

“People that normally don’t have allergies have really been complaining a lot this year,” said Dr. Diane Morgenthaler of the Health Center.

Sophomore communications major Lauren Mastrianni is one of the students who isn’t always strongly affected by the changing seasons, but she was this year.

“I haven’t taken any medicine yet, but if it gets any worse I will,” said Mastrianni. “It’s been really bad this year.”

Morgenthaler said allergies differ from person to person regarding how long they last.

“It depends on what you’re allergic to and most people don’t actually have testing to find out, they just sort of get a general idea about which season it is,” said Morganthaler. “But it can typically, as opposed to things like a cold which you get over within a few days or a week, allergies usually last for at least a few weeks.”

She said there is not usually a fever involved, and the mucus is most often clear or colorless.

Morgenthaler said a year that is considered “bad for allergies” is a year in which everything blooms at once, since the cause of seasonal allergies is usually pollen.

“I usually have it when the flowers are blooming,” said Mastrianni, who said it causes sinus issues for her.

Morgenthaler said the symptoms are normally runny nose, nasal congestion, headaches, sneezing and coughing.

Jonathan Burton, a journalism major with bloodshot, itchy eyes, pulled a tissue out of his pocket to wipe his runny nose as he said, “I usually take Benadryl but I found that nothing really works for me, so I stopped taking any type of medicine.”

Burton said both Claritin and Zyrtec didn’t work for him.

Morgenthaler said the Health Center has a variety of over-the-counter and prescription medication available that are offered to students.

She also said the Health Center carries nasal steroids, nasal saline sprays and antihistamines like Zyrtec. Staff can write prescriptions to be filled at an outside pharmacy.

This is useful for students who are already prescribed an allergy medication but need a prescription to be refilled for this spring while they are at school, away from their regular doctors.

The Health Center will also continue to give allergy shots to students with prescriptions from their allergists.

“We continue them while they’re here under the guidance of the allergist,” said Morgenthaler. “They bring their allergy medication with them and come in weekly for the shots.”

Southern does have an allergist in the area that they are able to refer students to.

“Most commonly, people do really need to at some point resort to medication,” said Morgenthaler.

She said it’s not something that may need to be taken long term, but rather just when the symptoms flair up.

For allergy-sufferers who wish to treat their symptoms with natural medicine, there are options.

According to WebMD, the European herb, butterbur, can be taken in tablet form to replace an antihistamine without the usual effects of drowsiness.

Other treatments WebMD suggests are freeze-dried nettles, a tonic made from the herb goldenseal, and a saltwater nasal spray.

WebMD also said many naturopath doctors believe nutrients such as grape seed extract, quercetin flavonoid compound and vitamin C help with allergy relief.

To help clear nasal passages, WebMD recommends hot, spicy foods made with cayenne pepper, hot ginger, fenugreek, onion and garlic.

Equally important is what allergy sufferers refrain from during allergy season, such as melon, banana,
cucumber, sunflower seeds, chamomile and any herbal supplements containing echinacea, according to
WebMD.

Though seasonal allergies are not often serious enough to cause anaphylactic shock, according to
Morgenthaler, there are some cases in which it can be dangerous.

“One of the situations where it can get serious is with people with asthma,” she said. “It can trigger their asthma and cause exacerbations of the asthma.”

The Health Center has nebulizers available for asthma sufferers, as well as oral steroids.

Morganthalers said it is difficult for allergy-sufferers to escape the source of their allergen, but she suggests students dealing with seasonal allergies use filters.

Burton said when he’s at home, he uses a dehumidifier. But since he lives on campus he can only close the door and windows.

For some people like Joe Vumbaco, sophomore photography major, allergies are something that came later in life.

“I never had allergies when I was younger,” said Vumbaco, “but I got them for the first time last year. They were awful.”

Vumbaco said a similar situation happened to his father, who didn’t have allergies until five years after starting a lawn care business.

In addition to the seasonal allergies, spring also activates contact allergens such as poison ivy and poison oak, which cause a reaction from their oils.

To prevent allergic reactions from contact allergens, Morgenthaler recommended avoiding contact with the plants and washing skin that comes in close contact.

Southern’s Health Center recommends students who notice their allergies getting worse to schedule an appointment to be checked out.

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