Season for sneezin’ hits Walla Walla Valley hard

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WALLA WALLA — It’s not all in your head, even if it is in your nose.

The 2014 allergy season is in full bloom and much more robust than usual in the Walla Walla Valley. Area medical providers say they are seeing patients suffering with itchy eyes, runny nose and fits of multiple sneezes.

Get the lowdown

To check out daily local and national allergy forecasts, visit Pollen.com. By entering a ZIP code or city name, users can get a pollen count of low to high, with alerts for plants putting the most pollen into the air at the moment. Email alerts are also available.

Every year seasonal allergies make people miserable, said Harvey Crowder, interim director of Walla Walla County Department of Community Health. It starts with tree pollens in late April, moves to blooming trees and shrubs and gets extended with the grass season, he said.

Comparing pollen counts from year to year, however, is impossible without specialized science, Crowder added.

Providers at Family Medical Center don’t need environmental testing to confirm this is a bad year, said director Seth Whitmer.

“They say it’s a lot worse than normal,” he noted. “We’re definitely seeing a lot more of this. Their thought is that perhaps it is because of the extra moisture, the rains we had this spring.”

Countermeasures

Providence Medical Group allergy nurse Juanita Radelfinger said people can take some low-cost measures at home to minimize their exposure to pollen. Those include:

• Wear a respiratory mask when working in the yard.

• Cut down overgrown shrubs surrounding the house.

• Remove mold and mildew from roofs and decks.

• Avoid sleeping in basement spaces.

• Keep cars and homes closed up in April and May.

• Bathe pets once or twice a week.

• Wash clothes after working in yard.

• Use air filters in car and home.

For more allergy control tips, go to www.mayoclinic.org and search for “hay fever.”

Whitmer said rains have allowed plants to bloom more prolifically: “Some that are normally dead by now are still putting on new growth and blooming.”

Dr. Ali Amirzadeh, asthma, immunology and allergy specialist at Walla Walla Clinic, said he shares his patients’ misery.

“I will tell you I am suffering myself, and I really haven’t before this year,” he said. “This is the worst I can remember since childhood.”

As a specialist in the field in Walla Walla, Amirzadeh said his practice is “very busy” with people unable to find much relief this year. He begins most patients off with a trip to the drugstore.

“I recommend for them a combination of over-the-counter antihistamines, with generic Zyrtec and Allegra being more effective than Claritan D or loratadine tabs,” he said. “At Costco, you can get a whole year’s worth of generic Zyrtec for $15.”

Amirzadeh said dosage for those non-sedating medications is one pill a day, but healthy adults can try an increase of they continue having symptoms “as long as the medication doesn’t make you tired.”

Beyond that step are nasal sprays — not spray decongestants, but nasal steroids or antihistamines, he added. “Nasacort just came over-the-counter.” Oral Sudafed and sinus rinses are other tricks to try.

When all else fails, Amirzadeh said he talks to patients about allergy shots.

At Providence Medical Group, allergy nurse Juanita Radelfinger said doctors there are even seeing patients who take allergy shots who are experiencing higher incidences of problems this season.

“This is probably the worst year in a long time. People have really bad itching of the eyes and runny noses.”

The allergens causing trouble are all the usual suspects, but seem to be on steroids of their own, Radelfinger said.

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