MOREHEAD CITY — Spring is in the air, which means so is pollen — making it a difficult time of year for allergy sufferers.
Boxes of allergy medicines are flying off the shelves, headaches and sneezes are a plenty, and everything is caked in a layer of yellow, despite the rain from a couple days ago.
Pollen.com, the national allergy forecast and information website, said the prominent pollens for this area last week have been juniper, elm and oak.
The pollen count for much of the week was in the red-zone, making it rough on folks with seasonal allergies, with the numbers shrinking over the weekend thanks to cooler temperatures.
Dr. James Zechman, with the Allergy and Asthma Clinic in Morehead City, said problems usually begin for allergy sufferers in this area at the end of January with oak, pecan, maple, birch, sweet gum and sycamore tree pollens.
He said the blame is often pointed at pine pollen, but pine pollen is a lot larger and heavier and isn’t what causes all the sneezing, coughing and headaches.
Once the trees have bloomed, the grasses come out in late April and pollinate for the next few months. Late summer and early fall is the ragweed and dog phenyl.
For some people, allergies are a mere annoyance, but for others, they can get worse each year.
“Allergies can change year to year,” Dr. Zechman said. “You usually see sneezing, watery, itchy eyes, runny nose, nasal congestion … you should think of allergies as a cold or infection that doesn’t go away.”
Dr. Zechman said if the problems becomes chronic, when the symptoms are bothering you more days out of the week than not, it’s time to seek a doctor’s help.
“Sometimes allergies interfere with activities of daily living, if they’re sneezing or coughing all the time … it can interfere with sleep, and it affects the way you feel, that’s when you should go to the doctor.
“Most allergy patients have been suffering 15-20 years, whereas if your knee hurts, you would have been X-rayed 14 years and 11 months ago,” he said.
Dr. Zechman said a lot of over-the-counter and prescription antihistamines can help, along with prescription strength nasal steroid sprays.
“Just be aware of the fact some of the pills and nasal sprays aren’t effective, and you should consider a specialist who can identify what you’re allergic to in the first place and take the guesswork out of it, and perhaps get other treatment options like allergy immunotherapy,” Dr. Zechman said. “My main thought and peeve has always been that you should think of your allergies as you would any other chronic disease, there’s no need to suffer through allergy season because there are treatment options that can make you feel better.”
And while over-the-counter allergy medicines are often a good fix, as well as prescription remedies, some folks swear by the use of local honey as another great, inexpensive way to combat the sneezing, itchy, watery eyes and general misery this time of year can be for those with allergies.
Tia Douglas, a local beekeeper said the majority of her honey purchases are to people with allergies.
“They swear by it,” she said. “The reason it works is because there’s pollen in the honey, but you have to get the local honey to get the local pollen, and it kind of works like a vaccination because it builds up your resistance.”
Ms. Douglas said that while local honey works, the problem for consumers is getting a hold of it.
“Word gets out and it goes really fast,” she said. “Mine usually sells out within two days.”
Ms. Douglas said the only place she knows of that carries local honey is Williams Hardware.
But if you can get your hands on it, it seems to be well worth it.
Ms. Douglas and the Crystal Coast Bee Keepers have several pamphlets of information outlining the benefits of honey which include reducing allergies, treating cuts and burns, skin conditions, upset stomach, sore throat, and much more.
But while local honey may be a good remedy for some folks, Dr. Zechman said there’s not much scientific study to back up its effectiveness for folks with more chronic allergy conditions.