Long Winter Gives Washingtonians Time to Prepare for Allergy Season
SEATTLE – While the Northwest's long and rainy winter may have delayed spring, it won't keep allergy season at bay for much longer. Rainier winters than normal, such as the one Washington has just experienced, tend to tamp down pollen until warmer, drier weather moves in.
Doctor Mark La Shell, program chief of the allergy and asthma department at Kaiser Permanente of Washington, says that means Washingtonians have an extra few weeks to prepare themselves. He says when the sniffles do come, there are some things allergy sufferers can do to lessen the impact of symptoms.
"When you've been outside on a nice, warm, sunny day, you've been exposed to pollen," he said. "So when you come inside, changing clothes and maybe taking a shower can help get the pollen off of your body. Also, maybe keeping windows and doors closed. While it's tempting to let that fresh spring air in, you may let pollen come in too."
La Shell also says some of the best allergy medication has become available over-the-counter in the last two years. He suggests using nasal sprays and antihistamine drugs such as Claritin for a few weeks to clear up symptoms, and adds that generic versions of these drugs work just as well as the name brands.
However, outdoor allergies are only half of the story. La Shell says indoor allergies are perhaps more complicated since they often involve pets and dust mites.
"For animals, trying to keep them outdoors as much as possible," he added. "Bathing them frequently can help. Dust mites are the other big indoor allergen. There's a variety of things that can be done for dust mites. Common sense cleaning, and also there are encasements for your mattress and pillows and box spring that you can put on your bedding."
La Shell says the grass pollen season will start in the next few weeks. Seasonal allergies affect more than 35 million people in the U.S.