People with seasonal allergies will probably suffer for about six weeks more before the really hot weather cuts into plant pollination and reduces hay fever symptoms.

But the fact that pollen's in the air doesn't mean you have to be miserable. There are things you can do to reduce the effects of allergies, according to Dr. Duane Harris of the Intermountain Allergy Clinic.Harris and fellow clinic allergist Dr. Tony Henry will take phone questions about allergies during the June Deseret News/IHC Health Hotline Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon.

The first thing to do, Harris said, is stay indoors in the morning hours, when most species of grass, trees and weeds pollinate. "Don't garden or exercise early in the morning. Don't sleep with the windows open; shut them around midnight or 1 a.m."

If you've been outside and it's a miserable allergy day, shower before you go to bed so you don't sleep in a layer of pollen. If your car has air conditioning, turn it on and shut the windows.

And, speaking of air conditioners, central air beats swamp coolers every time for those who have allergies. A swamp cooler sucks in pollen-laden air and filters it a little. Central air conditioning keeps it outside.

Over-the-counter remedies are a favorite source of respite during the "season of suffering," Harris said.

But he offers some warnings and guidelines to get relief safely.

"Any OTC antihistamine has the potential to be sedating. Since it can make you sleepy, you must be careful," he said. "With a non-sedating formula, you can be sure there's not a good amount of antihistamine and it won't work as well."

He tells patients to look for a combination antihistamine and decongestant, or get an antihistamine such as Benadryl and take a decongestant like Su-da-fed with it. "If you do them together, it will be significantly better than either one alone but you do have to watch out for sedation."

NasalCrom has been made over-the-counter recently, Harris said. It's nonsedating and not a steroid. It also seems to lack side effects. "The problem with it is it has to be used every day and should be used three or four times a day, with the peak effect appearing after two or three or four weeks. But most people won't use it like it should be used.

"It's very common for people to be able to take OTC medications and feel much better," he said. "If that's the case, immunotherapy would help, but it isn't necessary."

For most people, immunotherapy is the most effective, potent treatment for allergies.

Here's how it works: Doctors do skin tests to determine what causes the allergy. Then a small dose of that substance (there may be several) is administered, in increasing doses over a three-to-five-month period. Once the dose has been built up, patients go to a monthly maintenance dose and stay on it for three to five years.


Additional Information

Hotline is today

The Deseret News/IHC Health Hotline will accept calls today from 10 a.m. to noon. The toll-free number, 1-800-925-8177, can be called from anywhere in the Intermountain West. All calls are confidential.