Spring brings sniffles, sneezes

MARQUETTE – The warmer temperatures these past few days have had many reaching for their tennis shoes and running for the door. But for those battling springtime allergies, the recent weather has had them reaching for the tissue box.

As the trees bud and begin to open, pollen is released into the air causing varying symptoms such as nasal congestion, itchy watery eyes and sneezing.

“In the Upper Peninsula, it seems like everybody calls in the spring,” said Dr. Peter Ranta, an allergist with the Great Lakes Allergy and Asthma Center, P.C., in Sault Ste. Marie.

Ranta said while fall comes in at a close second place, spring flares up the most allergies. He noted that the spring allergy season lasts through April and May. Once the leaves come out on the trees, there is no more pollen. He added that this year is a late season and about a month behind what is typical.

The main trigger for spring allergies in the U.P. is white birch pollen, Ranta said. Other triggers include maple and aspen trees, dust-mites and mold.

Often, it can be difficult to tell the difference between a cold and allergies. But while a cold only lasts two weeks and produces first clear running noses and then yellow and green, allergies last longer and produce only clear-running noses.

“It’s important to see an allergist if you’re not sure,” Ranta emphasized. “We can do skin tests for the most common U.P. allergies to be sure.”

Ranta said he recommends that anyone who plans to have an allergy test do so through a board-certified allergist. Although other doctors do skin tests, they are not board certified.

Once it is established that a person has allergies, there are a few routes they can take to combat the sneezing and sniffling.

Treatments include allergy medications, prescription nasal sprays and antihistamines. A series of shots are also offered, which Ranta said is one of the best treatments for allergies. A patient begins with a low dose, receiving a shot once a week for up to six months. Once a patient has built up an immunity, they go through “maintenance” with one shot a month for three to five years until it is no longer needed.

Allergies are widespread in people from age 6 months to more than 100 years, Ranta said. Newborns however, do not typically have them, as they are not exposed to allergies at that young of an age. He added that genetics are most often to blame for allergies.

“It’s hard to predict the exact percentage of children who will inherit allergies,” Ranta said. “If you start asking though, there’s usually other family members with allergies, whether it’s a parent or even a grandparent.”

To learn more, visit www.greatlakesallergy.com.

Abbey Hauswirth can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 240.