Got allergies?

Got allergies?

For Kim Kreiner, who spends a lot of time outside with her horse rescue operation, the answer is a resounding yes — enough to cause rashes and hives.

"I get everything from itchy, watery eyes to headaches and a lot worse," says Kreiner, a Central Point resident. "My allergies are a lot worse this year. The doctor says it's because of certain grasses. It grew to be rashes and now it's severe hives the size of dimes on my legs — and I haven't had a reaction like this before."

The greater-than-average spring rainfall followed by abundant sunshine has triggered plentiful pollen, says Dr. Brandon Hull, a family practitioner with Providence Medford Medical Center.

A pollen-monitoring website says the count for tree pollen has been high 10 days out of the month so far, and the count for grass pollen has been moderate for the entire week. (See www.mailtribune.com/pollencount for a link.)

"This is our busiest time of the year for allergies," says Hull. "It's seasonal, with lots of pollen from trees, wild grasses and flowering trees coming into bloom. The smoke (from recent controlled burns) has also been an irritant."

The simplest remedy isn't a pill, he says. It's washing your eyes, using mild baby shampoo and warm water, and rinsing your nose with a diluted, saltwater solution by snorting it and blowing it out.

Kreiner says she washes her hands and face, uses eyedrops and showers before bed so she doesn't get any pollen on her sheets.

More serious cases call for oral, over-the-counter medicines such as Benedryl, or longer-acting antihistamines such as Claritin or Zyrtec, which help with sneezing and itching, Hull says. For severe cases, with congestion, Sudafed, a prescription drug, is recommended, he adds.

The Ashland Food Co-op sells a range of nondrug options, with butterbur being in top demand, says supplements adviser Sari Teltner, who uses butterbur for her own pollen issues and notes the effects are comparable to Allegra and Claritin.

She ticks off an array of other herbal, plant, enzyme or homeopathic remedies, including Allerescue, Tetadolex, Allergy Eye Relief, Petadolex and a Chinese remedy called Clear Wind Heat.

"I've kept my allergies under control this spring and stopped having to use my inhaler," she says, noting some of the ingredients in remedies come from nature, including nettle, eyebright, vitamin C and quercetin, a flavinoid found in tea and many foods.

On his way to the co-op for allergy relief, Derek Jason Jaskot says he's tired of "sneezing profusely."

"I don't feel too happy about it," he says. "It hinders my life and is very annoying, but I want to live life to the fullest, so I'm open to the cure."

People with critical cases, such as Kreiner, get referred to allergists for "desensitization shots" — small injected doses of the allergen — but Kreiner says she had to drop her health insurance, which offered only partial coverage, and can't afford the full cost now.

"I moved down from Washington and it's worse here," she says. "There are a lot of different new grasses here and we haven't pinned down which ones do it. Plus, I'm getting more allergic to hay, which I can't avoid in my horse rescue work.

"I keep Handi-Wipes in my car and wipe my hands and arms off after being near the horses. I'm never without Benadryl in my pocket and I shower religiously before bed every night."

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Email him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.