SIKESTON -- Allergy sufferers have fought Mother Nature since the beginning of April, and while the allergy season is far from over, the good news for sniffling sneezers is that there are ways to improve their conditions.
"I'm an outdoors person and it (allergy season) has almost stopped me from doing anything," said Mary Beth Lee, who suffers from mold and grass pollen allergies. "By the time I came here (Allergy Partners P.A. in Sikeston), I was so miserable, I didn't care if I had to get shots every week."
Each year, many allergy sufferers feel the same as Lee, but according to Janna M. Tuck, M.D., who is board certified in allergy and immunology, the Southeast region is still at the height of grass pollen season.
Tuck said spring usually starts in February in Southeast Missouri, but due to the mild winter, trees began to pollinate later than usual, which is why tree allergies didn't pop up until April.
"It's peculiar," Tuck said, "because the grass started growing early this year, and it's not supposed to kick in until about the second week of May." Luckily, grass allergy suffers should be relieved of their symptoms by mid-June, she said.
Even though the Southeast Missouri area has received a lot of rain to wash pollen out of trees over the last month, it decreases allergy symptoms for only one or two days, Tuck said. "The problem with rain is that it increases mold allergies, and right now, the moldy people are miserable," she said. "Mold allergy sufferers won't feel relief until November."
Common symptoms of allergies are clear, runny noses, sneezing, nasal itching, eye itching, throat itching and stopped up nose and ears, Tuck said.
Lee, whose symptoms consist of all those, plus nausea, said her allergies keep her from getting her work done. "There are some days when I just have no energy whatsoever," she said. "I want to get something done, but I can't because I have to stay in all afternoon. It just takes away your quality of life."
Allergy sufferers who fear needles shouldn't worry because Tuck said shots are at the end of the line for treatment. "We try to start out with oral antihistamines like Claritin and Allegra because they have few side effects," Tuck said. "Benadryl is very debilitating and makes you groggy and tired so we only recommend it if there are severe symptoms."
If the oral antihistamines don't work, Tuck said, next on the list is prescription nose sprays. Over-the-counter nose sprays can be used for two or three days, but if they are used too long, they can become less effective, she said.
A final measure that can be taken if symptoms are really severe is a doctor's prescription of oral steroids, Tuck said.
Tuck advises anyone with persisting symptoms to contact a doctor immediately. If you are taking over-the-counter medicines tell your doctor about it. Some people think it's not necessary to tell their doctor what over-the-counter medicines they're taking, but it is, Tuck said. It's good for their doctor to know so they can give them a safer prescription, she explained.
Since Lee began taking her antihistamines and decongestants prescribed by Tuck, she said she feels a lot better. "She's [Tuck] helped me tremendously," Lee said. "I even mowed Tuesday, and I thought, 'Hmm . . . This is great!'"