Connecting to Health

A Health and Wellness Blog

Back to Blog Home

April 10, 2017

What Allergists Wish You Knew

by John Hastings

When Artemio Jongco, MD, PhD, was a kid, he was so sensitive to pollen that he carried a box of tissues around with him all through the spring and summer. Today, as an allergist at Long Island Jewish Medical Center, he helps people conquer the allergies that used to cause him such misery. If you suffer from hayfever, now is the time to swing into action, he says – most allergy medications work better if you start taking them before symptoms become a problem. Here are a couple of other tips he says can help conquer the itching, sneezing and stuffiness so you can enjoy the buds and blossoms:

Keep the great outdoors out of your house. You can cut the amount of pollen you’re exposed to by simply keeping your windows closed -- and it’ll help even more if you turn on the air conditioner at the same time. “That filters the air coming in your house and also lowers the humidity, both of which will help prevent symptoms,” Dr. Jongco says.

Avoid pollen traps. Your cat and dog are like walking pollen delivery systems: They head outside and brush up against pollen-laden grasses, or stand in the breeze as pollen sifts down onto their fur. When they come inside, that pollen is transferred to your couch or rug and then onto you. Even worse: You pet them, and then touch your face. Limit your exposure by washing your hands after playing with your pets, Dr. Jongco says. Also, don’t forget that you carry pollen into your home and onto your furniture. Get rid of it by changing your sheets and pillowcases frequently. And on days when pollen counts are high, it can make a big difference in symptoms if you remember to wash your hair and change clothes before bed.

Consider allergy shots. Over-the-counter steroid sprays, antihistamines and decongestants do the job for lots of people, but if those medications leave you still sniffling, allergy shots may make sense. They were the solution for Dr. Jongco. After testing showed that he was mainly allergic to tree pollen and cat dander, he underwent a typical course of treatment: For six months, he got weekly shots containing miniscule amounts of the trouble-making allergens to calm the hair-trigger reactions of his immune system. Then he switched to a monthly schedule of maintenance doses for about three and a half years. (For most patients, the maintenance phase lasts three to five years.) Now Dr. Jongco can be around cats without any trouble. Best of all: He can enjoy the blooming spring without a runny nose and irritated eyes.