Are you sneezing?
Those streaming itchy eyes, that red nose, so sore even a Puffs doesn't make it worthwhile to sniffle, those swollen sinuses, the headache, the sore throat from the post-nasal drip, the misery, oh the misery . . . It's all from this year's bumper crop of that pollen-ious producer of all time.
In fact, every year seems like a bumper crop, because ragweed -- the operative word here is weed -- doesn't mind if it's wet or dry, hot or cool. Once it's got its little roots in -- and it seems to grow as well in concrete as humus -- well somebody's going to sneeze. Until the first frost puts the winter whammy on that irritating annual.
Okay, you meant to go get the immunizing shots ahead of time and, well, things got in the way.
So what can you do about it?
Well, say the experts, the best thing is to move some place that doesn't have ragweed. Alaska, maybe, or Bermuda. Unreasonable? Well then, the next best is to stay home in a cool, pleasant air-conditioned house when the count is up and your energy is down.
Nor is that always as easily done as said, so probably you'll just have to resign yourself to some suffering.
Now this won't help -- although we'll get to some things that may in a bit -- but the allergists have learned a great deal about why you are sneezing, even if they haven't done quite as well stopping it.
They know, for example, that in certain sensitive people antibodies to the pollen are produced that, in turn, stimulate particular cells (called mast cells) to spritz your system full of chemicals like histamine, which is what causes the sneezles, wheezles, runny eyes and all those other wretched symptoms.
The ragweed season usually begins around mid-August (it was a little early this year) and can last until mid-October or the first frost. An acre of ragweed (not that anybody grows it by the acre on purpose) can produce a ton of pollen. And when you consider that a pollen grain is so light it can float on an air current from some 250 miles, you must admit that's a lot of sneezes.
(It is estimated that 250,000 tons of ragweed pollen are produced every fall.)
The allergists tell us that when the pollen count measurement of grains-per-cubic-meter-of-air gets above 7, sensitive people can start feeling that tell-tale tickle in the upper respiratory tract. (In the Washington area, the count has been in the 50s for some days now.)
According to Dr. Richard Rosenthal, clinical and research allergist, chief of Allergy at Fairfax Hospital and assistant professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University Medical School, some effective treat ments are on the verge of being approved by the Food and Drug Administration, or are available in other countries and wending their way through FDA approval procedures.
These include steroid nasal sprays, at least one of which is designed to minimuze side effects of cortisome treatment, and cromolyn sodium, a drug already available to asthma sufferers.
In addition, work at Hopkins by Dr. David G. Marsh, may make immunizing therapy safer, more effective with fewer injections.
But there are some things, short of holding your breath until October, that may lessen today's allergic angst.
If you don't have to drive or concentrate on anything (or if antihistamines don't make you sleepy) some of the over-the-counter remedies may be your answer.
It is probably better to try single drugs, rather than combinations, so you can tell at once if the product is effective. Of, if there is a reaction, precisely what is causing it. (Some combination products contain one drug that can make you drowsy and another that can have the opposite effect. They may counter each other, but they also might make you feel worse than the ragweed.) Decongestants may relieve some symptoms, but they have been known to induce temporary hyperactivity in children.
Most allergists recommend against the currently available nasal sprays and nose drops containing ephedrine, because overuse can eventually make tissues soggy and lead to a condition that is as bad as the original stuffiness they are designed to alleviate. In any case, it's a good idea to check with your doctor before you take anything.
A brochure published by Dorsey Laboratories (they make an anti-histamine) also contains some common-sense tips for keeping your house, at least, a relatively pollen-free oasis.
* Damp-dust bedrooms as often as twice a day.
* Store shoes in closed closets. (Pollen can track in with them.)
* Don't sleep with pets during the hayfever season. (Polen can track in with them too.)
* Have outdoor clothes and indoor clothes and keep them separate.
(For free copies of the brochure, which contains other useful hayfever information, write Richard Weiner, Inc. 888 Seventh Ave., Box-P, New York, N.Y. 10019).
Oh yes, Gesundheit!