Spring showers bring May flowers — and allergies for many of us

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Allergic rhinitis, commonly known as hay fever and the cause of most spring allergies, has all demographics reaching for the tissue box.

Springtime in Michigan exhibits an abundance of sunshine and rising temperatures. Adults begin to tend their gardens and flowers, soccer fields are filled with joyful cheers of children and college students begin working on their tans or are studying for final exams outside.

But, some of them are forced to stay inside, balled up in bed with half-used tissues crumpled on the side table.

Spring allergies vary depending on your location, but Michigan is among the worst states for people who suffer from seasonal allergies, says Dr. Richard Kustasz, a family medicine doctor at Olin Health Center, located on Michigan State’s campus.

“Because Michigan has four regular seasons, allergies become more concentrated in those times of the year,” Kustasz said. “When you are from other states or other countries, even something like allergies are new exposure and can be difficult to handle. Even the people in Michigan who don’t have allergies now can develop them, especially in young adulthood.”

Dr. Richard Kustasz has been practicing medicine for over 20 years. He is one of the leading doctors at Olin Health Center at Michigan State. Photo vi Richard Kustasz

Dr. Richard Kustasz has been practicing medicine for over 20 years. He is one of the leading doctors at Olin Health Center at Michigan State. Photo vi Richard Kustasz

Most of the allergens are caused by “new flowering, plants, trees and other pollens, as well as all the molds and dust that’s out in the grass and weeds that come back in the springtime,” according to Kustasz.

But, Kustasz says allergies aren’t the only thing that he sees more frequently in the office when the snow melts and new life begins to sprout.

“In my experience here, the springtime is when people start to become more ‘weekend warriors,’ and doing more outside and physical activities,” Kustasz said. “So I see a lot more ankle sprains, sprained wrists or physical activity injuries. Asthma becomes more prevalent and serious, mainly due to the allergens.”

The biggest issue with these re-emerging springtime illnesses, especially among young adults, is the need to power through them. College and high school students across the country find themselves in the midst of the last few weeks before summer arrives. And despite suffering from pesky allergies or sprained limbs, these students wind up taking the pain and not receiving the right care they need.

For instance, Samantha Ruedisueli, a senior apparel and textile design major at Michigan State, suffers from severe asthma and bad allergies to the pollen that begins to float around in the spring. Ruedisueli takes over-the-counter medication, but it doesn’t always do the job.

“It’ll make me feel fine for a few hours or so, but if I’m working in a building or away from home and forget something like my inhaler or allergy pills, it’s a serious problem for me,” Ruedisueli said.

Allergic rhinitis, commonly known as hay fever and the cause of most spring allergies, has all demographics reaching for the tissue box.

Allergic rhinitis, commonly known as hay fever and the cause of most spring allergies, has all demographics reaching for the tissue box.

But, with the recent MSU Apparel and Textile Design Fashion Show that Ruedisueli designed three dresses for, she didn’t have time to get proper medication, see a doctor or even rest for a few hours to regain her strength.

“I’ve been struggling health-wise, but the fashion show has been taking up 100 percent of my time the past two weeks,” Ruedisueli said. “I had one dress two years ago, and two last year. I struggled with those, and now three is almost killing me.”

Luckily for Ruedisueli, Kustasz gave some tips on avoiding some of the more common springtime illnesses, such as bad allergies or asthma. 
“Avoiding exposure is key, and when it is hot out and you have air conditioning, it is vital to use it,” Kustasz said. “That way those allergens from the outside don’t come in and you still stay cool. In addition, rinsing out the nasal passages with saline and nasal rinses.”

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