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FOR EXPERT COMMENT: Spring Allergies are Manageable, but the First Step is Understanding the Problem, MU Researcher says

April 4th, 2011

Story Contact: Christian Basi, 573-882-4430,

The views and opinions expressed in this “for expert comment” release are based on research and/or opinions of the researcher(s) and/or faculty member(s) and do not reflect the University’s official stance.

COLUMBIA, Mo. — Doctors and scientists are predicting a worse than normal allergy season this year due to the significant amount of precipitation that has doused the country. In those areas hardest hit by the excessive spring pollen, allergy sufferers might dread going outdoors, but steps can be taken to alleviate symptoms. Shawna Strickland, director for the Respiratory Therapy Program in the University of Missouri School of Health Professions, says almost everyone can control their allergies by understanding and managing them effectively.

Shawna Strickland, director for the Respiratory Therapy Program in the University of Missouri School of Health Professions.

“Allergy symptoms are worse on dry, windy days and best on wet, windless days, so it’s important to keep an eye on the weather and plan outdoor activities on less windy days,” Strickland said. “At this time of year, it’s also difficult to decide if sneezing, coughing, headaches and runny noses are due to allergy symptoms or the flu.  However, flu symptoms will typically include high fevers, muscle aches and chills.”

Understanding allergies is the most important aspect of managing the problem, Strickland said. Someone with new onset of allergies should see an allergist to determine exact allergens and proper management strategies. Several medications are now available over the counter that help deal with different types of allergens. Understanding the exact allergen can help when choosing a medication, Strickland said.

Other tips include:

  • Stay indoors when pollen counts are high—usually during midday
  • Keep windows closed 
  • Change your clothes after being outside
  • Shower before bed to keep the bed from being contaminated
  • Wash sheets in hot water weekly
  • Do NOT dry clothing or sheets on the clothesline

“The way allergens affect people can change over time, so it’s important to check with a doctor if you notice your symptoms changing, for better or worse,” Strickland said. “It’s also important to keep an eye on children as they might have difficulty describing allergy symptoms and think they just have a cold.