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Spring marks arrival of unwelcome guest

April showers bring … nasal congestion and ocular irritation
Tiarella angel wings sport attractive spring blooms and bicolored summer foliage. Submitted photo

The arrival of an early spring means longer days, warmer weather and, unfortunately for some, seasonal allergies.

Dr. Robin Plank, a primary care physician at Slippery Rock Family Medicine, said it’s the time of year for allergies to start making their way into the body's immune system.

“Allergies are an immune response to a specific trigger such as food or environmental exposure,” Plank said. “Common symptoms include itchy and watery eyes, runny nose and dry cough that are likely caused by the mild winter and wet spring.”

According to the USA National Phenology Network, an organization that monitors phenological data from around the country, Butler County experienced signs of spring nearly 20 days earlier than it has in the previous two decades. As a result, trees have begun to pollinate, causing more residents to experience the wrath of springtime allergies.

“Outdoor tree pollen has not yet reached its peak, but it’s beginning to appear, and we’re already seeing patients with persistent seasonal allergies,” said Dr. Russell Traister, of the Allegheny Health Network West Penn Hospital in Bloomfield. “Over recent decades, we’ve seen a progressively warmer climate, resulting in trees producing more pollen and negatively affecting allergic reactions in both children and adults.”

Plank recommends some key preventive measures for people who experience allergies.

“Keep windows in the household closed and run the air conditioner, change furnace filters frequently and avoid prolonged outdoor exposures,” she said. “Many over-the-counter antihistamines — without decongestants — and nasal steroids are safe to take to help with symptom control.”

As for when someone should see a doctor concerning seasonal allergies, Plank says those with previous medical conditions such as high blood pressure and heart conditions should contact a physician before taking any medications.

As for those who do not have other conditions, “symptoms that cannot be controlled with prevention measures of over-the-counter meds should seek medical advice for management,” Plank said.

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