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Allergy sufferers assaulted with increased pollen counts

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CEDAR RAPIDS — For many allergy sufferers, the past several weeks of dry weather have been rough, with ragweed pollen a constant problem this time of year.

“It’s amazing,” Dr. Lyla Schweiger, an allergist in Cedar Rapids, said of the weed. “In the ditches, growing next to the corn.”

Schweiger said ragweed pollen is everywhere, and it’s been driving more patients into her office. But, she said there are some new weapons to fight allergies people should ask their doctor about.

“Probably the newest thing to come along are sublingual tablets that you can take for ragweed pollen as well as grass pollen,” Schweiger told us. “But it has to be started about 12 weeks before the season starts.”

Dr. Schweiger said ragweed pollen counts, gathered at stations like the one at CompleWare Corporation in North Liberty, are rising.

Dry weather and even a slight breeze can send anyone reaching for a tissue, or antihistamines, according to pharmacist Kyra Corbett. She’s seen the allergy aisle at CarePro Liberty Pharmacy packed in recent weeks.

“They’ll come in with their faces all red and itchy, and they’re asking,” Corbette said. “Sometimes they’re in here for their antibiotics or for somebody else, and they’re saying, ‘gosh, do you have anything else for allergies right now?’”

Corbett wants to remind people many of these meds aren’t for immediate relief, so you should take care and read labels before purchasing, depending on what type of symptoms you’re showing.

“You have Zyrtec, Allegra, Claritin, and those generics,” Corbett explained. “Those get better each day that you’re on them, up to about the 5th day, and that’s as good as it’s going to get.”

Dr. Schweiger said there are other ways to avoid an allergy attack.

“The pollen counts, in general, tend to be highest in the mornings, so, avoid exercise in the morning,” Dr. Schweiger told us. “If you’ve been outdoors during the day, make sure you take a shower and put your clothing in the hamper. You don’t want to bring all that pollen in. And you want to keep your windows closed this time of year as well.”