Allergy sufferers in for battle as spring blooms - East Valley Tribune: News

Allergy sufferers in for battle as spring blooms

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Posted: Thursday, March 6, 2008 7:55 pm | Updated: 8:54 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Wet winters in Arizona bring about the blessings of full reservoirs and pretty wildflowers. But that rain also carries the curse of wildfires and, currently, allergy problems.

This is the time for people to suffer seasonal allergic rhinitis, commonly known as hay fever. If a person is allergic to pollen from plants, native to the desert or not, they will develop symptoms of sneezing, a runny nose, itching eyes and ears, a tickle in the back of the throat and persistent cough.

In short, misery without an end.

"The issue is in Arizona, there is no off-season; it's not like Wisconsin where there's three feet of snow," said Dr. Gordon Genta, an allergy specialist in Tempe. "So, the pollens are all year long."

Which plants are the worst for allergy sufferers? "It's all of them," Genta said, although he did single out olive trees and Bermuda grass.

Of course, it is the spring flora - primed for explosive growth by the winter rains - that affects the most people. With the advent of warm weather, flowers, grasses, trees and weeds now are shedding pollen at a high rate.

"This (year) is definitely the worst one in a few years," said Dr. Douglas Smith, also of Tempe.

Smith is seeing about 20 allergy patients a day. Many of these allergy sufferers, he noted, haven't been in his office since early 2005 - the last time the Valley had a wet winter.

"They've been under control a couple of years, and now they're having bad exacerbations," Smith said.

Since Oct. 1, Phoenix's official rain gauge has recorded 4.35 inches of precipitation. That total is only 3 percent above the climatological average, but it more than equals the rainfall during the winters of 2005-06 and 2006-07 combined.

So, what can victims of allergies do to limit the suffering? Sufferers can avoid pollen, said the doctors.

"When (my patients) go to San Diego, they tell me, 'Oh, I was fine. It wasn't nearly as bad.' Or, they go up to Payson," Genta said. "When they come back to the Valley, they're miserable."

Beyond escaping, there are preventive measures, such as injections of a weak steroid. Genta touted "allergy drops," an immunotherapy taken orally, while Smith advised washing out the nose with a saline spray and keeping one's home clean with an air purifier.

But allergy sufferers shouldn't pin their hopes on a medical "magic bullet."

"There's too many different things (causing allergies)," Genta said. "It's like a cold virus - there's thousands of variations."

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