Hay Fever or Allergic Rhinitis is the body's abnormal response to pollen, animal dander, mold and dust. Symptoms can include a runny nose, stuffy nose, or post-nasal drip. These symptoms are caused by very small particles, such as pollen, being inhaled into your nose and contacting your mucus membranes. It is estimated that up to 38% of people have Allergic Rhinitis. It is most common in children and young adults.

Monterey County has some special factors that can make your allergy symptoms worse here than in other parts of the country. Our weather is nice all year round (isn't that why most of us live here?). Because of this nice weather, we have pollen in the air eleven months out of the year. This is in contrast to places like Denver, Colorado where there may be pollen in the air only 4 months out of the year. In addition, Monterey County has large areas of undeveloped land, such as Fort Ord, where grass and weeds grow wild. This pollen can be carried in the wind for miles. Living near the ocean also can make your allergies worse. The low altitude and high humidity allows for high levels of dust mites to live in our beds and carpets. The high humidity also creates large amounts of mold spores to be in the air year round.

Luckily, there are ways to treat allergies. For some people, simple avoidance measures can be helpful. This includes keeping your home and car windows closed in order to keep the pollen and mold outside. Removing pets from your home will also help if you are allergic to them. Washing your bed sheets in hot water and using special bed covers are helpful to avoid exposures to dust mites.

Many medications are available to treat allergies. The two most common types of medications for allergies are antihistamines, some of which can be purchased without a prescription, and nasal steroids. Many new medications are now available which do not cause the drowsiness that the older allergy medications did. If avoiding what you are allergic to and medications do not work, then allergy shots can be considered. Allergy shots are a well-established treatment that naturally desensitizes the immune system.

If you are currently suffering from Allergic Rhinitis keep in mind, you are not alone. It is estimated that tens-of-thousands of your neighbors also have allergies. If your symptoms do not improve, you should see your doctor.

Steven S. Prager M.D.

Monterey County Herald

October 17, 1999

Central Coast Allergy & Asthma

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