It’s allergy season in the valley |

It’s allergy season in the valley

Veronica Whitney

Dean Larson’s eyes starting itching and he developed a runny nose when the cottonwoods bloomed.

“This spring it wasn’t too bad; but now that the cottonwoods are blooming, I’ve been having itchy eyes, a runny nose and sinus problems,”

said Larson, 35, the proprietor of Ultimate Image Printing in Avon, who has been taking prescription Claritin every day. “I’ve had allergies all my life, but when it gets dry the allergies get worse. They don’t put me down, but they makes it pretty miserable.”

Allergies are a very common problem, affecting at least two out of every 10

Americans, said Diana Hearne, emergency medicine physician for the Vail Valley Medical Center.

“What we commonly think of allergy season where we live is late spring

through summer, when pollen counts are high,” Hearne said. “The pine pollens and cottonwoods are particularly bothersome for many. It tends to lessen a bit in late summer, but may continue until frost time.”

In other areas of the country, allergy season starts a bit earlier with spring blooms.

Do I have an allergy?

It can be difficult to tell the difference between seasonal allergies and a

cold or sinus congestion, Hearne said. Allergies usually are seasonal and tend to recur about the same time each year. Common seasonal allergy symptoms include sneezing, clear runny nose, itchy and red eyes and sinus congestion.

“It is rare to get a fever with allergies, or be otherwise ill,” Hearne said. “Allergies also tend to persist longer, but may improve when inside -especially if in air-conditioned or filtered air – and then worsen when outside.”

People still have allergies in the summer when the allergens are in the air – particularly pollens.

“Allergies are more common in the blooming time,” Hearne said. “That is spring for other areas, and late spring to summer for us.”

“Avoid exposure to allergens”

The goal, Hearne said, is to lessen the symptoms by trying to avoid or

decrease exposure to allergens that bother us.

“Sleeping with windows by the bed closed and showering and shampooing before bed may help,” she said. “Medications can be helpful. Some antihistamines are available over the counter.”

Additionally, there are prescription medications including antihistamines, steroids and anti-inflammatories.

“Some people receive great benefit from these medications and people should ask their doctors about what types of therapy might best benefit them,” she said.

Any allergen can trigger an allergy. Common seasonal triggers around the Vail Valley are pine pollen – the evil yellow dust – and cottonwoods, Hearne said. Nationally, ragweed is one of the most notorious.

“People with allergies can try to self-treat with over-the-counter medications for mild- and short-lived reactions,” she said.

Oral antihistamines like Benadryl or Claritin may help. Additionally, there are over-the-counter eyedrops that can sooth allergic eyes.

For more significant symptoms, or those who do not respond or tolerate the over the counter medications, people should visit their doctor, Hearne said.

Prescription medications may exist to treat specific symptoms – these include nasal sprays and eye drops, as well as oral medications.

Larson said he still has intense sinus irritation.

“For about two weeks it gets too bad and then it tapers off,” he said.

“Now I’m in peak time.”

Veronica Whitney can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 454, or at

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