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Quirky season causes sniffles

Unusual circumstances this fall have caused some unexpected problems among allergy sufferers.

Monday, November 22, 1999

Unusual circumstances this fall have caused some unexpected problems among allergy sufferers. Even though the plants are dying, people are sneezing, coughing and have a runny nose and itchy, watery eyes – classic allergy symptoms.

"It’s a combination of several things," said Dr. Matthew Wilson, a board certified allergist with Tri-State Allergy Inc. "One, is in this area, there are some problems with forest fire smoke irritating people’s eyes, noses and asthma."

And the fall foliage, although beautiful, raises the mold count in the air, Wilson said.

"Molds prosper after a frost when the leaves are on the ground," he said. "That’s basically the only thing in the air right now."

But as winter approaches, allergy sufferers have more things to fear than pollen.

The doors and windows are shut tight on most houses this time of year, and that means dust, cockroaches and animal dander have nowhere to go, Wilson said.

"People move inside this time of year," he said. "There are no pollens present. They’ve been killed off. But when you spend more time inside you get a bigger dose of indoor allergens. Two-thirds of allergy sufferers suffer yearround. Probably only one-third are strictly confined to a few weeks outside of the year."

There are several over-the-counter medications available, but it’s time to see a professional when either those remedies don’t work or have debilitating side effects, Wilson said.

"The problem with over-the-counter medication is that many of them cause side effects like drowsiness," he said. "Decongestants can be bought over-the-counter, but people can have problems with nervousness and jitteriness. If you’re suffering and the medications are not working or they are causing undesirable side effects you should consult a physician."

Allergies should be taken seriously, Wilson said. Even though nasal allergies don’t result in death, they do cost the American public $2.7 billion per year in direct and indirect medical expenses.

"Allergies are not a trivial illness," Wilson said. "They really affect people during the years when they are their most productive – from later teens to early 40s. After that, the incidents decline but don’t drop to zero."

And there really is no reason for people to suffer from allergies, Wilson said.

"There are a great many medications available by prescription that don’t have the drowsiness that impairs you," he said.

If relying on over-the-counter medication, Wilson warns that patients should be cautious.

Possible side effects should be taken seriously. Sedating antihistamines, like Benadryl, can affect a person’s ability to drive, and could result in a charge of driving under the influence, he said.

In Ohio, DUI laws concern alcohol, as well as any drug that prohibits the ability to drive a motor vehicle, Ohio Highway Patrol dispatcher P.D. Baire said.

And if an officer suspects drug use, a blood or urine test, as well as a breathalizer might be requested, Baire added.

Refusal would result in a year’s suspension of someone’s license, he said.