There are nearly 150,000 trees in Brooklyn, supplying the borough with shade, oxygen and, in the spring, pollen. "Tree pollen usually comes down at the end of March," says Dr. Michael Marcus, Director of Pulmonary Medicine and Pediatric Allergy & Immunology, "and depending on the weather, continues until mid-May. Grass pollen usually begins to fly at the end of May and extends until the hotter parts of summer." It's important to be aware of the pollen count, which is the measurement of how much pollen is in the air. A recent study released by the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology revealed that weather changes as a result of global warming are expected to triple the pollen count, from 8,000 in the year 2000 to 21,000 by 2040.
So how can we survive allergy season? "The goal to minimizing the impact is to minimize your exposure to pollen," Dr. Marcus notes. Equally important is the fact that limiting your exposure to pollen goes beyond simply not spending time outside, since many everyday activities can also worsen allergy symptoms.
Since pollen count is higher in the morning, Dr. Marcus suggests limiting your outdoor morning activities. For example, if you enjoy running, do it in the evening. He also recommends taking allergy medication in the morning, instead of waiting until you experience symptoms later in the day. "Practices that minimize the amount of pollen entering your house are also important," says Dr. Marcus. This includes taking shoes off outside, changing clothes, showering at night and keeping windows closed. Animal fur can also trap pollen, so bathing pets more often in the spring is also advised.
You may also have to make some lifestyle changes in the spring, if you are an allergy sufferer. Beer, wine and liquor contain histamine, the chemical which causes stuffy noses and watery eyes, so limiting your consumption can prevent symptoms from intensifying. Similarly, chemicals in smoke can irritate the eyes, nose, throat and lungs, so if you are already prone to allergies, avoid being around family and friends who smoke. And, of course, if you're a smoker, this is just another reason to quit! Strong smells from perfumes, lotions, candles and air fresheners should also be avoided as they can also worsen symptoms.
"Planning ahead is always important," Dr. Marcus stresses. Spring allergy symptoms can be controlled with the proper management strategies. After a winter as cold as this one, we want you to be able to take advantage of all the fun outdoor activities Brooklyn has to offer.
Dr. Michael Marcus
Director, Pulmonary Medicine & Pediatric Allergy/Immunology
Dr. Michael Marcus has over 20 years of experience in the specialty of pediatric pulmonary medicine and pediatric allergy & immunology. He is active in research and has published extensively throughout his career, and is an Associate Professor of Pediatrics at SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn, NY.
To make an appointment, call (718) 283-8260.
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