Campus / News / April 9, 2008

Spring term brings allergy concerns

Spring term gives students a lot to look forward to; Flunk Day, warm weather, intramural dodge ball, and oh yeah – allergies.

Although sometimes hard to recognize, allergies generally cause itchy, watery eyes, a runny nose, and a mild cough, according to physicians assistant Lyle Murphy from the Knox College Health Center.

Often confused with colds, they tend to last longer and cause a watery nasal discharge, unlike a cold, which should not last much longer than a week and causes a more “colorful” green and yellow discharge as well as aching, fatigue, and the occasional fever, said Murphy. Both can cause headaches.

Spring is not the only season that causes allergies. Summer, fall, and even winter allergens can affect different people. Year long allergies also affect many, whether due to your roommate’s pet rat or the dust bunnies behind your desk.

However, spring allergies are infamous for causing the most trouble for more people due to the high pollen count from mating plants and strong winds, according to

Surprisingly, it is not the flowering plants of spring that cause most allergies. Flowers such as the rose have a heavy pollen which rarely become airborne (hence, the need for bees.) Tree and grass pollens are more likely the culprit, which may be the reason why the natural allergy “remedy” of eating local honey has not been scientifically proven to work, said Murphy.

Other favorite herbal remedies he has heard of are Vitamin C and Echinacea, a supplement that comes from the purple coneflower and is said to increase T-Cell production.

“I don’t have any problem with them, but there’s not any medical evidence that support them,” said Murphy.

One herbal remedy that may prove more helpful is the European herb Butterbur, which according to has proven effective in two medical studies when taken four times a day. Many of these natural remedies can be found at local organic stores such as Cornucopia.

For others, an over-the-counter drug such as Benadryl or Claritin may be the easiest solution.

Although nasal sprays can also be of help, Murphy warns that they should not be used regularly for over a day or two due to their addictive properties.

He adds that not everyone needs to be medicated. For some people, simply figuring out what they are allergic to and avoiding it works well.

Those who hope to avoid spring allergies should take showers after spending time outdoors and should be wary of fans in dorm rooms because they can kick up pollen that gets into the room via clothing or an open window.

Windows should be kept shut for as long as possible; those with bad enough allergies can apply to be allowed to have a portable AC in their window.

According to Murphy, there is no “magic symptom” that can tell you whether or not your allergies are bad enough to see a doctor.

“If it doesn’t bother you, that’s fine. If it bothers you, and you’re willing to take a pill or nose inhalant, then see a doctor,” Murphy said.

Typically, they will give the patient a skin test to determine what he or she is allergic to. Based on the results, they may prescribe a stronger medication such as Singular, or even advise you to get allergy shots over the next few years to reduce your reaction.

“But a lot of people do just fine with a plain old over the counter Claritin,” said Murphy.

Christy Reuter

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