Hartford — When it comes to a problem with seasonal allergies, it turns out Hartford has it, too.
According to a study by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, Hartford is the seventh most-challenging place to live with seasonal allergies. The only municipalities determine worse, according to the study, are Scranton, Pennsylvania; Wichita, Kansas; McAllen, Texas; Richmond, Virginia; San Antonio, Texas; and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
New Haven was ranked ninth in the study, which took into account each municipality’s spring and fall pollen counts and the number of board-certified allergists and immunologists. The other cities in the top 10 were Buffalo, New York, at No. 8; and Albany, New York, at No. 10. Bridgeport just missed the top 10 at No. 11.
Pam Angellilo, a registered nurse who specializes in allergies at UConn Health, said she has anecdotally seen an increase in the number of patients her unit treats year over year.
“This time of year is always worse, but every year I feel like it gets a little worse for patients,” she said. “We’ve been extremely busy with patients coming in with asthma exacerbation. It’s actually very common.”
The spring-allergy season, which primarily is the result of tree pollen as well as some grasses, started in early March, Angellilo said.
“My patient schedule has been pretty full since March,” she said, “and I feel like it’s a little bit more busy than normal this year.”
That Hartford and New Haven are on the AAFA’s list isn’t too surprising, Angellilo said, because of the high number of trees and other flora in Connecticut.
Furthermore, once the tree-pollen season abates, another trigger takes its place.
“You get all the tree pollen at least until June and then we go right into the heavier grass [season] — which is the higher culprit – come June, July, August,” she said. “Then in mid-August, that’s when you get hay-fever season, which is basically ragweed. Ragweed comes out late summer to fall, and it will stay with us until we get a couple of good frosts in the winter.”
The reason for longer and perhaps more intense allergy seasons, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is climate change.
“Climate change will potentially lead to both higher pollen concentrations and longer pollen seasons, causing more people to suffer more health effects from pollen and other allergens,” the CDC’s website says.
Millions of people have been affected by seasonal allergies every year, according to the CDC, with medical costs linked to exceeding $3 billion annually, with nearly half of those costs linked to prescription medicine.
There are ways to mitigate spring and summer seasonal allergies, Angellilo said.
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“This time of year, I tell people as much as you love to put the windows up in the spring, don’t sleep with your windows open,” she said. “Try to use the air conditioner instead. Air purifiers in the house can help with any dust allergies as well.
“If you’re going to be outside for any length of time, make sure you shower before you go to bed to get all that pollen off your skin and out of your hair. I also say don’t go to bed with wet hair because you can get mold in your pillows. Wash your bed linens frequently, hot water, dry them in the drier, that will get rid of pollen in the linens. The heat will also kill any dust mites.”
She also advises people who have significant environmental allergies to wear a mask if they are going to be doing any yard work.
Over-the-counter medications such as oral antihistamines can also be effective, Angellilo said, adding that people may have to try more than one brand to see if it works.
Ultimately, if none of those things works, then it may be time to seek professional help.
“If it’s really bothersome to people and it’s affecting their lifestyle, I would suggest getting allergy tested or consulting a physician to get allergy tested and see what their options are from there,” Angellilo said. “If it’s affecting your lifestyle or your livelihood, that’s when I would go see a physician about that.”
Ted Glanzer can be reached at email@example.com.