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By Cindy Butler Focke, The Virginian-Pilot – 10/22/2011

It’s nothing to sneeze at: Most of Hampton Roads and parts of northeastern North Carolina have been named among “the most challenging places to live with fall allergies” in a study released by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.

Retired teacher Pat Ever-hart isn’t surprised.

The Virginia Beach resident has dealt with allergies for 25 years. They’re worse around November and again in the spring, she said.

Medications and allergy shots help, but she takes precautions at home, too.

“Allergy-proof covers for the mattresses and no pets in the bedroom,” she said.

Local allergist Dr. Gary Moss of Allergy & Asthma Specialists Limited, agreed.

Attention to allergy-prevention in the bedroom is important, he said, adding, “We spend a third of our lives in bed.”

Moss said zippered mattress and pillow covers made of tightly woven fabric are inexpensive ways to avoid dust mites.

AAFA spokesman Brian Oliver said more than 50 million Americans have allergies, making for lots of sneezing and itchy, watery eyes.

“People with allergies should consult with a health professional for the best course of treatments for them,” Oliver said. But there are ways to help counteract allergies and improve air quality at home.

The AAFA says washing bed linens at least once a week in water 130 degrees or higher will kill dust mites and their eggs. Vacuuming weekly with a quality vacuum with good suction and a HEPA filter will keep dust levels down, too. Use scent-free cleaning products, and wear a face mask when dusting, the association recommends.

Portable room air filters for bedrooms and common areas are also a good idea, as is changing your heating and air conditioning filters at least four times a year.

Chemicals in paint can often cause eye, nose, throat, skin and lung irritations in people with asthma and allergies, Oliver said. Valspar Paint is the first indoor paint to be certified asthma- and allergy-friendly by the AAFA, as it contains little or no volatile organic compounds that may produce short- or long-term adverse health effects.

The fall allergy study was based on three factors: pollen counts, allergy medication usage and number of certified allergists per patient in each area.

Hampton Roads was ranked 26 out of 100 metropolitan areas, just behind the only other Virginia locality: Richmond. Knoxville, Tenn., was No. 1, while Portland, Oregon was last on the list.

Moss said locally fall allergies erupt mostly due to increased moisture, which creates mold. A dehumidifier can reduce dust mite and mold growth. Also, check for water leaks in and under the house. Sand under the house can help reduce dampness, he advised.

Not all allergy-proofing ideas are proven to work, Moss said. Some of his patients have claimed replacing carpet with flooring helped, while others disagree. Environmental constraints are always an important component to helping control allergies, Moss said.

“But don’t let it interfere with a normal lifestyle.” For example, “Don’t not go outside on a beautiful day because it’s a little windy,” he said. “Seek other therapies.”

Cindy Butler Focke,

If you live in Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake, Portsmouth, or Hampton Roads and are suffering from fall allergies, asthma and allergy, allergies, sneezing and itchy, watery eyes, and may need allergy shots, please call our allergists at any of our 3 locations listed below. Our allergists are here to help you.

About our allergists
Since 1951 the allergists at Allergy & Asthma Specialists have been successfully treating children and adults in Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake, Portsmouth, and throughout Hampton Roads who suffer from fall allergies, asthma and allergy, allergies, sneezing and itchy, watery eyes, and may need allergy shots.