Tens of thousands of Memphians are among the estimated 40 million Americans suffering from allergies this spring in what many experts are calling “the worst season ever” for intense nose tickles and burning throats. Even worse, Knoxville to our east, Louisville to the north and Jackson, MS to the south all rank in the Top 5 of the Top 100 worst cities in the nation for allergies as ranked by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Memphis has it bad. We are simply surrounded by the worst cities for allergies during one of the worst seasons for allergies. The climate of the Deep South enables longer spring seasons as the Southern states get more light and humidity. This climate also facilitates the growth of a variety of pollen-producing plants and trees. “The effect of this double-whammy on Memphians is quite obvious,” according to Terrye Mastin, Nurse Practitioner for the Shea Clinic. “As soon as things warm up, our plants and trees begin to pollinate and then our immune system jumps into overdrive, “ she says. Thus, the warmer Southern states have longer and more intense allergy seasons starting with pollen production in April and followed by grass and ragweed well into August. Oftentimes, these weed pollens do not peak until September but they then disappear with the first frost.
Allergies are one of the most common chronic illnesses in the Unites States, and family history almost always plays a role in those that suffer the most. Irritants including the likes of pet dander and tree pollen stimulate the immune system to release histamine which causes the all-too-familiar itching, sneezing, runny nose and watery eyes. Seasonal allergies result in 12 million physician office visits per year and this number appears to be increasing with the aging of Americans. According to Dr. Staffel of the Shea Clinic, “As our bodies and our immune systems get older, they get less responsive. It is similar to most aging athletes whose reflexes slow down as they get older. People over 65 years old tend to lose sensitivity to allergies for the same reasons they are more susceptible to infection.”
Although it’s unlikely that Memphians will relocate for allergy reasons, Dr. Staffel advises a few simple remedies to ease the symptoms this year. “The best advice I can give is to get tested and find out what you’re allergic to, “ he says. “Terrye Mastin heads our allergy department and we do this every day for patients at the Shea Clinic.” Generally, Dr. Staffel suggests trying an antihistamine, eye drops and a saline wash to rinse the nasal passages. He also points out that the height of pollen production takes place between 10:00 am and 2:00 pm, so it may help to avoid outdoor activities during these hours. “If you’re not getting satisfactory relief after three or four days, come see me! Or I guess you could consider relocating!”
So allergy-sufferers, take hope! Terrye Mastin, N.P. along with Dr. Staffel and the professionals at the Shea Clinic are here to help you! Give us a call at 1-800-477-SHEA or locally at 901-761-9720 and set up your appointment today. You’ll be glad you did!
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