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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Sneeze-Season Solutions

Although London physician John Bostock named it "hay fever" in 1819, it's not just hay and it's not only fever that people suffer from during allergy season. Also called seasonal rhinitis, hay fever occurs when inhaled allergens from pollinating plants stimulate the production of antibodies and the release of histamines in a person with a sensitized immune system. Symptoms can range from sneezing, watery eyes and an itchy throat to hives, high fever and even chronic asthma.

In Russia, seasonal allergies affect up to 40 percent of the population, according to the Health and Social Development Ministry's Institute of Immunology. Moreover, it seems that hay fever is on the rise.

"Due mostly to ecological factors, the number of people suffering from various allergies, including seasonal allergies, has been increasing over the past 30 to 40 years," said Dr. Maxim Markatun of MedEp Clinic, which provides various treatments for hay fever and other allergies.

Usually symptoms start at ages from 12 to 20, but can also develop as late as 35 due to changes in climate, lifestyle or other environmental factors, he said.

When symptoms of hay fever appear out of nowhere, they are commonly mistaken for a common cold, since they are frequently limited to runny noses, itchy eyes, coughing and sneezing. To identify it as hay fever, pay attention to the nose and especially the eyes: Teary eyes and "pink eye" symptoms are more common for allergies than colds, Markatun said.

Allergic waves correspond with the blooming periods of different kinds of plants. Trees blossom in spring, grains in early summer and weeds as late as August. In these three categories, the most allergenic plants are birch, cat's tail grass (timofeyevka in Russian) and wormwood, Markatun said. But some people suffer throughout the summer during all three periods and, although it seems counterintuitive, urban residents are more likely to have hay fever symptoms than people who live in a rural environment, he added.

Knowing which specific plant causes the reaction might be helpful, since symptoms appear only when this plant pollinates. Such identification is a routine procedure for allergy specialists. Pollen-monitoring data is now gathered in Moscow and other major cities, and an analysis is published daily on the web site, which shows what's blooming in the city every day and how to modify your diet to prevent a reaction.

What to Do

Vladimir Filonov / MT
Birch pollen tops Moscow's list of hayfever inducers.
One solution to allergic reactions would be avoiding whatever it is you are allergic to. You could try copying the Russian aristocracy and spend allergy season "on the water" somewhere at the seaside where there is less pollen. For those staying in Moscow, the old method of keeping a home pollen-free is hanging damp cloth by the windows and arranging buckets of water all over the apartment. A newer, more expensive, and perhaps more aesthetic method is buying an air purifier. Specialized stores such as Allergodom sell various kinds of equipment for people allergic to plants and dust or suffering from asthma. A purifier with the best filtration comes with seven years' worth of filters and costs 20,000 rubles, said Oksana Yudina of Allergodom. Cheaper versions start at 3,000 rubles.

The option of allergy therapy is a lot more involved and requires commitment and foresight. For three months, the patient is injected regularly with a vaccine that contains the allergen in increasingly larger doses. The idea is to stimulate the immune system so that it does not react violently to the allergen in the future. Most allergy doctors find allergy therapy to be the most effective way to treat hay fever, but note that over-the-counter antihistamine medications can suffice for lighter symptoms.

However, vaccine treatments and regular medications can be dangerous if used incorrectly or excessively. Homeopaths analyze all symptoms and even individual traits such as preference for sweet or sour foods.

"Allergy develops from pollution, overconsumption of food preservatives, overmedication with antibiotics and vaccine shots, and individual genetic predisposition," said Irina Lurye of the Moscow Homeopathic Center. "It's the disease of civilization."


Allergodom, 739-5957,

Daily pollen monitoring analysis:

Health Ministry's Institute of Immunology, 24/2 Kashirskoye Shosse, (499) 618-2085, M. Kashirskaya, Allergy screening to identify your allergens, 3,000 rubles; allergy therapy 5,000 to 10,000 rubles (depending on number of allergens).

Institute of Allergology and Clinical Immunology , 20/1 Malaya Bronnaya Ul., 202-1562/0290, M. Pushkinskaya, Offers a three-year course of allergy therapy costing 18,000 rubles a year, including consultation and vaccines.

MedEp Medical Center, 125 Varshavskoye Shosse, 319-2118, M. Yuzhnaya, Three-month course of allergy therapy treatment, 12,000 rubles.

Moscow Homeopathic Center , 2 2nd Vladimirskaya Ul., 672-2780/2411, M. Shosse Entuziastov,