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Seasonal Allergies Something to Sneeze At in D.C. Metropolitan Area

Atmospheric changes making pollen 'more aggressive.' Doctors suggest seeing an allergist to develop a plan of action to battle seasonal allergies to prevent them from turning into bigger health problems.

If you’re battling a runny nose, itchy eyes, a cough, wheezing and your car has a new greenish-yellow pollen paint job, you could be dealing with seasonal allergies.

In the Northern Virginia-Washington, D.C. area, maple, cedar/juniper, birch, alder and ash trees are in bloom and contributing most of the pollen flying around, according to Pollen.com.

Allergist Dr. Talal Nsouli, a professor of Pediatrics and Allergy/Immunology at the Georgetown University School of Medicine and current White House allergy consultant, says there are three ways to battle seasonal allergies: avoid pollen and mold; take allergy medicine and, if that doesn’t work, opt for allergy shots.

“We saw a significant increase in patients because we’ve had very mild winters,” said Nsouli who was also allergist to President’s Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. “The pollen is more aggressive due to the changes in the atmosphere.”

Steve Kenney has lived in Northern Virginia all his life and the Vienna resident said he’s been battling seasonal allergies for as long as he can remember. Over the past few years, they’ve gotten worse. Kenney and his two young sons have been diagnosed with seasonal allergies by their allergist.

“My two sons take shots for it,” said Kenney, adding that his sons were pretty miserable all the time because of the seasonal allergies. “We had them tested and we decided it would be best for them to take the shots.”

Seasonal Allergies in the D.C. Region

Though the pollen count in the Northern Virginia-Washington, D.C. area has dropped 8 percent from this time last last year, Pollen.com spokesman Bob Linton said there is still a lot of pollen in the air in the region. He said the pollen count along all of the Mid-Atlantic states – including Virginia and Washington, D.C. – is higher depending on certain times of the season but it also depends on the timing certain species of plants and trees bloom.

In the course of a day, Dr. Manish Khanna sees approximately 30 patients. Of those patients, 12-15 are in Khanna’s Inova Mount Vernon Hospital office because of seasonal allergies. With stints in Albany, NY, and Palo Alto, CA, before arriving in Northern Virginia in 2008, Khanna, an ear, nose and throat doctor, said over-the-counter drugs can work but allergy shots seem to work best.

“I think this area is the worse,” Khanna said. “There seems to be a vigorous shift in the climate here.”

Winning Against Seasonal Allergies

Patricia Hall has battled seasonal allergies all her life first in Florida and now in Centreville. Watching pollen reports, hanging her coat in the closet and leaving her laptop bag away from common areas at home, she’s done it all -- yet she still deals with the sneezing, coughing and wheezing. In 1998, Hall dealt with her worse bout with seasonal allergies and decided to take shots for a year to help.

Now as the mother of a kindergartener, Hall has watched her son deal with similar issues with seasonal allergies to the point she and her husband had to cut back on her son’s outside time to make sure he didn’t miss any school.

“Last year when my son was in pre-school, he missed a lot of time,” Hall said. “This year has been better.”

For more than 20 years, Nsouli has treated thousands for seasonal allergies and conducted more than 100 case studies. One of the most common of seasonal allergies he has seen is hay fever. In a 2011 case study, Nsouli found that hay fever could lead to chronic fatigue. He said chemicals could be released into the blood causing fatigue and different moods.

“If you don’t treat hay fever, it can progress into asthma,” Nsouli said. “Asthma can be a very difficult disease to deal with.”

Because seasonal allergies can morph into a variety of other health issues, Nsouli said it is best to see an allergist to develop a plan of action to combat them. In a separate case study Nsouli conducted, he found that 80 percent of the people in the study developed asthma from allergies.

“See an allergist if you have problems,” Nsouli said. “It will increase your quality if life.”

To track the pollen count in your area, click here.

For tips on how you can fight against seasonal allergies, check out this Huffington Post story.

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