August 29, 2008

Feel Like You Gotta Sneeze? Ragweed, Mold Likely Causes

By ROGER MCBAIN Courier & Press staff writer 464-7520 or [email protected]

In case you haven't noticed, ragweed is back, and it's bad.

Mold is, too, says Dr. Anne McLaughlin, a Welborn Clinic immunologist and allergist who regularly captures spores, grains and assorted airborne allergens on slides and counts them under a microscope.

McLaughlin's latest tallies show ragweed at 149 grains per cubic meter of air.

That's high, she says. It's in the orange range, the next-to- worst designation on the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology's five-band, color-coded scale.

Her latest mold spore count, a reading of 25,700 spores per cubic meter, is also in the orange range.

For allergy sufferers, those numbers and colors translate into a range of symptoms. For some, they mean sneezing, runny noses and postnasal drainage into the back of the throat. For others, orange means runny, itchy eyes or itchy skin.

And for those with asthma, the numbers may mean pop

ping a pill or reaching for the antihistamine inhaler to open constricted air passages.

McLaughlin prescribes a range of measures for allergy protection and relief, depending on the intensity of the reaction.

Avoidance may be enough for some. Limit time outdoors, keep windows closed in your home and run the air conditioner to help filter the air. When you drive, roll up the windows and set your air conditioner or fan to circulate inside air.

If you need to spend time outside, do it before 10 a.m. or after 3 p.m. when less pollen usually is stirring, says McLaughlin. A pollen mask or even a bandanna tied over your nose and mouth can filter out some allergens.

When you come in from the outdoors, change clothes and take a shower to remove pollen and mold spores that otherwise may cling to your clothing, skin and hair.

That also will help keep the antagonistic allergens from winding up on sheets or pillowcases, where they could stir grief all night.

To check McLaughlin's allergen reports online, visit and enter "pollen count" in the search window.

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