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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Spring Fluff Brings Misery for Allergy Sufferers




Edward Gismatullin has been suffering from allergies for 20 of his 26 years. As May begins, so too do his sneezing, watery eyes and runny nose.


Gismatullin, however, is among the luckier allergy sufferers because his troubles last only four or five weeks, when the birch trees drop their blossoms.


For others, May is just the start.


Now, in June, it is the pukh from poplar trees and dandelions that blankets Moscow like a warm snowstorm. Later, grasses and other plants send their allergens into the air.


An estimated 2 million Muscovites suffer from hay fever allergies, according to a recent report in the Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper.


The American Medical Center has seen 12 to 15 allergy sufferers a day since the start of the season -- about the same number as last year, said Sandeep Mital, a doctor at the center.


The heat is making for a bad allergy season, because it makes the pollen and pukh lighter and more easily distributed. Pollution and smog hanging over the city may also cause or worsen allergic reactions, Mital said.


Rain would help the dust, pukh and pollen lay low, bringing some relief, said Sunitha Naranyan, a doctor at the International Medical Clinic.


Allergic reactions, called hay fever, that begin in early May often are caused by trees. Symptoms include a runny and itchy nose and mouth -- known medically as conjunctivitis -- as well as itchy and watery eyes, uncontrollable sneezing and headaches.


Finding the source is not always easy: There are more than 500 allergens from trees and other plants, fur, chemicals, food and other sources, Mital said.


According to Naranyan, who also is a research associate at the Russian Research Institute of Respiratory Diseases and Tuberculosis, Moscow's spring allergy season usually lasts through June when the pukh disappears. But other allergies may follow.


Tatiana Yurevna, an allergist at Polyclinic No. 1 at the Medical Center and Administrative Affairs Department attached to the government, says the most serious cases, affecting the eyes and resulting in head-colds and asthma, occur in June.


No matter the cause, the treatment is the same, Naranyan said. In most cases, treatment includes an oral antihistamine or decongestant -- often Claritin or Clarinise -- which is a mixture of Claritin and Pseudaephadrine.


A new Western drug, Kestin, which is a more effective and stronger antihistamine than Claranise, has recently been introduced in Russia.


"During Soviet times, it was very difficult to treat the allergies," said Gismatullin, an oil and gas correspondent for the Energy Intelligence Group. For three years, he received shots four times a week for six months of the year -- but he still suffered.


"It was foolish, useless medicine," he said.


While the newer medications help, Gismatullin said that in allergy season he prefers Moscow's polluted air to the pollen-laden air at a dacha in the country.


Another common treatment is desensitization. A very diluted extract of the allergen causing hay fever is injected under the skin so that the body reacts mildly and becomes immune.


But one of the wisest treatments is to avoid what causes the allergy, since the patient usually knows this better than the doctor, Naranyan said. Keeping windows closed and avoiding gardens is the simplest solution. Hay fever symptoms that occur in winter may be triggered by allergens like fur or dust.


Lisa Coll, a consultant from New York for the International Finance Corp., said she is allergic to everything from grass to dust and is taking drastic action. She recently decided to move back to the United States in hopes of getting some relief in another climate.


There also is a hereditary factor. Mital said that if a parent has hay fever, the skin conditions eczema, urticaria or asthma, then a child is more likely to develop them than a child of people without allergies.


Russians might also suggest some home remedies, though Mital would not comment on them and Naranyan said they did not work.


One treatment, popular since Soviet days, is activated carbon. It is said to cleanse organisms and help the body become more immune to allergies.


Others include the herbs cherada, or bur-marigold, and calendula, which are taken as infusions.