SPECIAL REPORT: Surviving the allergy season

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - Allergy season is upon us and in the deep south, it can be a rough time of the year for allergy sufferers.

News Leader 9's Mya Johnson sat down with a medical doctor and a specialist in natural remedies to talk about solutions that can give those with allergies lasting relief.

Sneezing, itching, scratchy throat, running eyes, sound familiar?

Here in the Chattahoochee Valley, we have seen warmer than usual temperatures early this year and normally, most folks would prefer this over the cold, but not those who suffer from allergies.

Over 50 million people in the United States feel the symptoms of allergies this time of year.

"My nose is always itching, my eyes are always itching, my ears are ringing, it's just terrible here in Georgia," said Patrece Graham, an allergy sufferer.

Although this is not uncommon, especially in the south, doctors say this year's allergy season may last longer than past ones. They recommend people who suffer should start treating their symptoms as early as they can.

Doctors like Robert Cartwright say they have already seen an increase in the number of patients complaining about allergies.

"It's going to continue through April with all of the tree pollen. But then also we have the grass pollen and it will kick and it will go into the summertime," said Dr. Robert Cartwright with Brookstone Allergy.

Experts in natural remedies, or "Naturopathy" like Dr. Brennen Murphy, say those with allergies will not feel the symptoms at the same exact point in a calendar year.

"For most people, it varies depending on what they are allergic too, so some people are allergic to the dogwoods and they have really been blooming this year," said Dr. Murphy of Elements Natural Medicine.

Pollen is a part of the plants' reproductive cycle and is not the same as bee pollen. When you breathe it in, it triggers a type of early immune response called histamine, making the mucus membrane leaky.

"With the pollen everywhere it affects my car while driving and it just makes my nose run. I'm going to have a lot of tissue on me, it's going to do too much," said Kaitlynn Cooper, an allergy sufferer.

A greater amount of fluids flows through your head, throat, and eye that causes itching. Over the counter allergy medications are anti-histamines help fight the early immune response.

"Nasal spray works better than the pills for me," said Graham.

Some have side effects, which Murphy says may make someone feel worse. She said that there are other alternatives to treat your allergies.

"Hesperidin Methyl Chalcone is a natural alternative to things like Claritin and Zyrtec. Now it acts the same way, you still release the histamines, but it blocks the histamine from clearing out any immune triggers, so this is a great symptomatic relief," said Dr. Murphy.

Dr. Cartwright with Brookstone Allergy says allergy shots are an effective form of treatment. His clinic will even stay open late into the day to administer them to someone with bad allergy symptoms.

"Allergy shots are really used in two situations. If the medicines are not doing a good job or if you just don't like even being on medications. Allergy shots are injections of the things you're allergic to like pollen, dust, and pets," said Dr. Robert Cartwright with Brookstone Allergy. "Over time it helps to retrain your body not to react to these things. It's a very long-term treatment. It is something that we do in the doctor's office because we are giving you things that you're allergic to, so we like to monitor you for a reaction."

Pollen can also trigger skin reactions and cause major irritation. Clinics like Brookstone offer skin testing where they introduce a little bit of the allergen into the layers of skin to see if there is any reaction.

Dr. Murphy says allergy sufferers should also consider nasal rinsing as a natural remedy.

"This is something we keep in the clinic, it was made by a pediatrician, it's really easy to use and it's just a squeeze bottle BPA free that you fill with the salt packet and water and just put it through your nose and squeeze and it will go up one nostril and out the other and help clear the congestion and also help clear pollen," said Dr. Murphy.

As for tips on what you can do on a daily basis to control you allergies, experts suggest:

  1. Keeping your windows closed so the pollen will not get inside your home.
  2. Rolling your windows up while driving.
  3. Wearing a mask when mowing the grass.
  4. Keeping track of pollen with apps on your phone.

And if you are congested, Murphy says to stay away from foods that may make your symptoms worse, like dairy and sugary foods.

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