TPR's Bioscience Medicine Reporter Wendy Rigby interviews Dr. Paul Fulmer about controlling the impact of cedar allergies.
Rigby: Experts predict this is going to be a bad, bad season for cedar. Why is that?
Fulmer: You know, it’s crazy, but with the drought we had for awhile and now all the water we’ve been having, cedar trees love water. And so, they soak up the water, this year even more, so it’s just going to make them a lot more powerful when they release their pollen.
Rigby: Normally when is the pollination season for juniper?
Fulmer: Usually after Christmas through January.
Rigby: How many people suffer from these kinds of cedar allergies, because it seems to me I am always around people who are sniffing this time of the year?
Fulmer: You know, really it’s only about 25 percent who really suffer. But a lot of us, when the pollen count gets really high, over 10,000 grams per liter, you’re going to notice even other people have itchy eyes, not to the extent that the poor people who are suffering all the time are, for sure.
Rigby: How do you tell the difference? Do I have a cold? Do I have allergies? How do you know?
Fulmer: You know, that’s a great question because so many people have a stuffy, runny nose in the winter. They’re inside. They’re around a lot more people because you don’t get out as much. The itchy eyes, itchy nose, that’s a big difference. You really don’t get that with a cold and usually with a cold, you kind of get bad, even the mucus may get a little colored for awhile and then kind of go away. Allergy doesn’t really go away that quick. And so you kind of notice “hey, I’m just lingering. I’m constantly stopped up, congested, runny nose, itchy nose, itchy eyes, things like that. There are so many nasal steroids out there like Flonase, Nasonex, Nasacort, and then you can take antihistamines like Claritin, Allegra, Zyrtec. Those are all good first-line measures to try and we often try those to start with to see if you can just manage your allergies that way.
Rigby: Tell us about allergy drops.
Fulmer: Well that’s what’s really interesting is that it’s been around in Europe for over 35 years. People have done very well with that. The best part about allergy drops, well there’s actually a couple of things. One, you can’t have that dreaded anaphylaxis that people hear about where you can die when you get shots. Because you put the drops under your tongue, it’s the same material that we’re putting in that. But you can only absorb so much at a time. And so you can’t have this bad reaction. The other nice thing is compliance. You don’t have to come into the doctor once a week or twice a week and get a shot, so therefore, people are compliant. They do it every day at home.
Rigby: So it’s sort of exposure therapy?
Fulmer: Yeah. It really sort of is. It’s sort of like you’re insulting a little bit along every day and you build up how much you do that gradually over three to five years.
Rigby: Is this FDA approved?
Rigby: And so is it something cost wise that’s similar to shots or people may not know.
Fulmer: Well, the shots are often covered under insurance. The drops aren’t as a rule right now just because it’s new and so the cost we keep down for that. But all the testing is covered.
Rigby: Do you anticipate, though, these drops will eventually be covered by insurance?
Fulmer: You would think so, I said, since it’s been around Europe forever. We just take a little longer.
Rigby: Anything else you would like people to know about this particular allergy season?
Fulmer: Well the main thing is to be prepared. As we’re hitting this time of the year and you have issues, go ahead and start a nasal steroid. A lot of times you can do that twice a day for a couple of weeks to kind of ramp up because it needs to be in the system. And that’s what a lot of people don’t know about that is that if you’ll just go ahead and use it every day, you’ll have less symptoms through the season.