Elise Waldman, of Linwood, lives her life, but her allergies don't make it easy.
Every day, all year long, Waldman takes the over-the-counter medication Zyrtec for her hay fever and allergy symptoms. She doesn't open the windows at her home. Shoes are left at the door from the spring through the fall. Waldman does a great deal of gardening, but the clothes go straight to the washing machine afterward. Gardening shoes stay in the garage.
Purell hand sanitizer stays in her car. Waldman washes her car often along with rinsing it off with a hose if pollen collects on it. Waldman vacuums her house every two weeks.
"Basically, I'm afraid to go off the pills. They are a part of my life," said Waldman, 59, who received allergy shots as a teen because she is allergic to a mixture of grasses, trees, ragweed, pollen and mold. "It has gotten worse. It's a pain. Both of my parents and my children have allergies."
Allergy season has already started, said allergist Dr. Neeta Ogden, fellow of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, who has practices in Hackensack, Bergen County, and New York.
"The warmer it stays (this spring), the more likely this pollen continues to grow and be more intense, but based on previous seasons and this pattern of global warming, I predict that this season will be the same as last year or possibly worse," Ogden said. "I don't see the season getting better."
Pollen counts at the beginning of April 2012 reached 4,500 per cubic meter of air, higher than in recent years, said Leonard Bielory, director of STARx Allergy and Asthma Center. LLC, and professor, Rutgers University, Center for Environmen-tal Prediction. A pollen count is the number of grains of pollen collected during a 24-hour period in a cubic meter of air. Last year's high was on May 6 with 10,930 grains per cubic meter of air, Bielory said.
Bielory had tips for lessening the impact of seasonal allergies.
Outdoor activity should be minimized when pollen counts are high. Peak pollen times are usually between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. The windows in a house should be shut when pollen counts are high, and window fans should not be used because they may draw pollen inside. Laundry should be dried indoors. Sheets hanging on an outside line are an easy target for blowing pollen. Wear a filter mask when mowing the lawn or gardening.
Bielory and his colleagues at the Rutgers' Center for Environmental Prediction have been studying the impact of climate change in this state and throughout the country for the potential impact on allergies. Bielory also has a private practice in Springfield, Union County.
There are three ways to treat allergies.
Besides minimizing exposure, allergies can be dealt with through medication, either over-the-counter or prescription, such as antihistamines and decongestants. The third way, allergy shots, has become increasingly popular in recent years.
Mary Taft, 71, of Buena Vista Township, has a variety of seasonal allergies, including trees, weeds, grass and flowers.
"Pollen is in season. It's all over the place. I'm a retired person. On a windy day, I will try to avoid going out, or I will cover my face with a scarf," said Taft, who added she has had allergies since childhood. "I go through the car wash at least every two weeks."
Taft receives an allergy shot monthly and also does nasal saline irrigation through use of a Neti pot.
The Neti pot is one of the more organic ways to treat allergy symptoms. A Neti pot looks like a cross between a small teapot and an Aladdin's lamp. Users tilt their heads at a 45-degree angle and pour the saline solution into the top nostril. The liquid will flow out the other nostril. This process thins mucus and helps flush out nasal passages.
Neti pots are among several alternative medical treatments for allergies available at Pamela's Health & Harmony in Margate.
Euphrasia is a homeopathic remedy when the allergy symptom is nasal discharge that is worse lying down. Quercetin is said to reduce the release of allergic chemicals in the body. The Stinging Nettle supplement is used to treat allergies. Pamela's also sells the Hyland's homeopathic line of products.
Winter is just ending, but allergy season is already underway, said store owner Pamela Shuman.
"Some people are coming in because their allergies are kicking up," Shuman said.
Allergy specialist Robert E. Coifman. who has offices in Galloway Township and downtown Millville, said there are homeopathic drops that are administered under the tongue, but they are sold as nutritional supplements and don't have to meet the FDA test for effectiveness.
"There are people who claim they benefit from them. I don't know how much is subjective and how much is objective," Coifman said.
This month through the early part of next month will see the major tree pollens of white oak and red maple unleashed, Coifman said. Grass pollen usually peaks at the end of next month, tapers through June and is variable after July 4. A secondary grass peak happens in early September, Coifman said. Weed pollen happens in July and August. Ragweed lasts from late August to the first frost although levels drop as days shorten and temperatures fall, Coifman said.
Dr. Steve G. Cozamanis of the AtlantiCare Physician Group, Ocean City, said a primary care physician is usually the first person an individual suffering from allergy symptoms will see.
"They will come by, and they will be sneezing, stuffy nose, runny nose, a little bit of a cough, fatigue. Most of the time, they think they have a little infection," Cozamanis said. "You have to differentiate those who are infected and those who aren't."
Allergies are more like a systemic illness, Cozamanis said.
"People that suffer from these complaints, they don't sleep well. They don't perform well in their jobs. They lose work days. They are on more prescriptions. The cost is tremendous. It's not just my nose is drippy, and I'm squeezing. It has real impact," Cozamanis said.
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Dealing with allergies
Tips for reducing the impact of allergies
Avoidance: This is not always practical. These measures include keeping windows clothes and the air conditioning on indoors and frequently washing the car.
Medicine: Sufferers can try Claritin or Zyrtec. A doctor should be consulted to determine the best way to balance control over allergies with the cost of medicine and risk of side effects.
Injection: Only one fatality has been recorded due to an allergy shot reaction in this country, but the bodies of some individuals react negatively to the shot.
Immunotherapy: Drops are available that can be placed under the tongue. Reactions are less frequent and less severe than injection, but the treatment is less effective than injection.
Alternative Medicine Solutions: There are homeopathic and other organic methods of dealing with allergies such as Stinging Nettle, Quercetin and Euphrasia. Some people sees results using these items, but their effectiveness has not been medically proven.
Source: Dr. Robert E. Coifman of Allergy & Asthma of South Jersey, of Galloway Township and Millville