Living in the Hudson Valley offers more advantages than we can count. Pollen, however, is not among them. The verdant hillsides and vibrant gardens of the Valley make it one of the worst locations in the country for allergy sufferers. Indeed, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America annually ranks the region from Albany to New York City among the most challenging places to live with seasonal allergies in the United States.
And summer and fall are perhaps the worst seasons of all. That’s not what those who suffered from a particularly rough spring want to hear, but “spring was a significant season compared to past years, so, if that is a predictor, and it usually is, we should see a similar experience in summer,” says Dr. Prashant Ponda, an allergy medicine specialist with ENT and Allergy Associates who practices in New Windsor.
This time of year, the major culprit is ragweed, a particularly noxious irritant whose pollen stuffs the noses and waters the eyes of millions of people living in the Northeast from early to mid-August until the first frost. Certain grasses also bring misery to many. What can you do to breathe easy? Dr. Ponda offers three tips.
1. Find out what you are allergic to
People often pop over-the-counter medicines like Claritin and Allegra, which irks Dr. Ponda. “You wouldn’t take cholesterol medication without having your cholesterol measured, so why take allergy medication when you don’t know what you are treating?” he asks. “There really is no reason to take medication for something you don’t understand.”
A skin test quickly determines what your body is reacting to. “You get results right away, and you can make a plan of treatment,” he says. That may mean OTC or prescription tablets or nasal sprays, or even allergy shots, depending on your results. He knows that many people take meds without testing, but if that doesn’t control symptoms, he advises you to see an allergy specialist.
2. Then avoid it
You don’t have to stay in your plastic bubble all summer, Dr. Ponda says. “Just stay below a certain exposure level, which is different for everyone.” Pay close attention to pollen reports, which list what irritants are out there, and try to time your outdoor activity to the days your bane is on the wane.
3. Keep allergies out of your house
Air conditioning and air purifiers trap pollen before it gets into your home. Help them out by removing your shoes at the front door, washing your face and hands, and changing your clothes when you come in. And take a shower and shampoo before bedtime. “Work hard to keep your bedroom clear, because that’s where you spend the most hours every day,” Dr. Ponda says.