Winter dragged on late this year so we still have spotty outbreaks of virus symptoms more likely in crowded transit environs than elsewhere but it’s definitely time to address the other three possibilities…pollens, molds and air quality. The question is how to differentiate amongst this grouping when they share a common point of attack through the nose, sinuses and eyes. If the nasal discharge is purulent and accompanied by a raspy throat with possible low grade fever and chills then it probably is viral and should run its course with symptoms managed over a week whereas allergy symptoms are more persistent and include itchy watery eye signs.

This is Hamilton so you cannot arbitrarily discount air quality factors consistently monitored as the WORST in the entire province…a perennial condemnation by cancer watch dogs with the Downtown record the worst but Hamilton west, the mountain, even Burlington are only a shave behind.

Molds are a separate issue, members of the fungus family traveling as spore formations. A common problem after a wet spring especially in damp locales with poor air circulation such as basements in older homes or workplaces with faulty air conditioning. Fortunately, mold illness is not as common and not all mold is bad. Penicillin being one obvious example.

If you’ve decided none of the above is the source of your proboscis misery then you truly do have allergies. There’s a sequence to pollen count fluctuations beginning with tree sources such as walnut, birch, pine in the spring followed sequentially by pollen spikes from grass then weeds early summer to mid fall.  The highest counts are recorded when the humidity is lower, temperature is warmer and the wind is higher. Pollen is actually clusters of microscopic grains from the male part of the flower, the cone. When transmitted  as the male gamete via wind, insects or animals as a vector, it fertilizes the female ovule resulting in all those ubiquitous swaths of ragweed.

Fortunately for most of us, pollen allergy is a controllable nuisance ingesting an OTC antihistamine. I’ve never promoted a favorite except to advise its more convenient to take a longer lasting formulary and definitely something in the non-drowsy category if you are a commuter or handling machinery, or even if your preference tends to mealtime or evening libations. For some with moderate levels of incapacitation, a doctor visit to acquire a prescription for nasal steroid script may be in order. I’ve never been a big fan of desensitizing allergy injections whereby an incremental exposure to the identified specific allergen reprograms the immune system response. It’s a protracted process requiring multiple physician visits with the potential for severe induced reactions at any stage so ,I would reserve it for only worst case scenarios.

I have strong opinions the allergy patient needs to meticulously address their personal environment as the tandem half of personal treatment. Ragweed is a highly visible main offender and should be eliminated. Dial up your city councilor if you spot an overgrowth in an abandoned lot or city property near you. Pollen is not just an outdoor problem. You, the children, family pets all generate turnstile air flow around the home. With all that in and out, Pollen tends to collect on flat surfaces so regular vacuuming is mandatory. Where possible, upgrade your air conditioning system and avoid open air flow when pollen counts are spiking.

That’s a synopsis of seasonal allergy sources but if your symptoms aren’t so seasonal, you may consider dust mites from uncovered mattresses and that older pillow you should have discarded six months ago.

Dr. David Carl

Providing a Fresh Perspective for Burlington and Hamilton.

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