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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Idaho

Pollen’s misery cuts wide swath

Pollen is pouring from grasses and trees, covering Lake Coeur d’Alene in yellow streaks and swirls, stuffing noses and irritating eyes more than it did last year.

“I just eyeballed the data and compared it to last year, and we’re worse,” Dr. John Strimas, Coeur d’Alene’s only allergy specialist, said Friday. “We’re way ahead of the curve.”

Strimas’ office records pollen counts for the region. Hay fever season began in March and will end by September. During that time, thousands of North Idaho residents will live on over-the-counter allergy drugs, nasal sprays and eyedrops as pollen counts vary with humidity, barometric pressure and sun.

The western red cedar is behind most of the agony now, but grasses are growing high and beginning to contribute to the problem, Strimas said. Once the grass season passes, pollen from flowers will start flying, continuing the hay fever season for six months.

Strimas said children suffer the most from allergies and often are given antihistamines to help them sleep.

“That’s when their school performance really takes a bounce,” he said. “They sleep better, but in the morning it shows in their short-term memory and alertness. They don’t pay attention at school.”

Rather than allowing children to suffer from allergies, he recommended that parents inform teachers when children are taking antihistamines.

Adults, too, need to consider the effects of allergy medicines before they drive, he said.

“We did the calculations and people who sneeze three or four times when they’re driving at 70 (miles per hour) cover 300 feet with their eyes closed,” Strimas said.

Hay fever sufferers who don’t want to live on over-the-counter medications have few options.

“They can live in a bubble or take allergy shots,” Strimas said.

Cold compresses may relieve stuffed noses, but nothing except antihistamines stops sneezing, the allergist said.

“If people know they’re going to be miserable for just six weeks, they can take over-the-counter stuff. It saves money,” Strimas said. “If they want to come in to the office, we’ll find out what they’re allergic to so at least they’ll be prepared.”

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