Greenville named nation's fall allergy capital

Published: Oct. 6, 2006 at 3:58 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 10, 2006 at 12:47 AM EDT
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(National-NBC) October 6, 2006 - Changing leaves and cooler temperatures aren't the only signs that autumn is here. For many people, itchy eyes and runny noses mark the beginning of fall. But if you depend on a drug store remedy to ease your allergy suffering, you may want to take a second look at the label.

For millions, the start of fall means much more than the end of mowing season.

Patrick Keenist suffers from allergies. "My eyes get itchy more - I always feel congested," he says. But its not just the stuff outside that can stir up the sneezing notes, says Duke Allergist Dr. John Sundy.

"It's not just pollens, it's molds, it can be dust mite other things both indoor and outdoor, that can cause allergy symptoms in people," said Dr. Sundy.

Most people can get relief over the counter, but this season, you may want take a closer look at drug labels.

Lauren Shaftel thought she was buying Sudafed. "I just saw Sudafed so I grabbed it and I took it, and then nothing happened and I was kind of perplexed!" she exclaims.

Shaftel didn't know her Sudafed had changed because of concerns over abuse. Drugs with pseudoephedrine, though still available without a prescription, have been moved behind the counter.

The version still on the drug store shelves contains a different ingredient, phenylephrine, which is getting mixed reviews.

Dr. Sunday says, "There is some controversy as how effective phenylephrine is compared to pseudoephedrine." Sundy says it's a matter of trial and error and heading to the doctor when nothing seems to help.

A prescription nasal spray works for Patrick Keenist, who has suffered with allergies since he was a child, "At an early age I began carrying a handkerchief, at a much too early age."

But there may be a silver lining in his much used handkerchief - research out of Ohio State University finds the genes linked to chronic allergies are also associated with a decreased risk of brain tumors.

Consumers must show a photo id and sign a log to buy drugs with pseudoephedrine, the move is part of a law designed to help curb illegal use of the drug, which has been used as ingredient to make crystal methamphetamine.

This year, Greenville, South Carolina, has been named the nation's fall allergy capital by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation.

Tampa, Dallas, Tulsa and Oklahoma City are among the top five.

According to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, as many as 40 million Americans suffer from seasonal allergies caused by airborne pollens, most commonly from ragweed plants.

The active ingredient in Sudafed and other oral decongestants, pseudoephedrine, are now subject to new federal sales restrictions.

Officials hope the limits, which require that all pseudoephedrine products be kept behind store counters or in locked cases and that buyers show an id and have their purchases logged and limited to a few each month, will curb illegal production of crystal methamphetamine, an addictive drug that is commonly made with pseudoephedrine.

Asthma and Allergy Foundation researchers ranked the 2006 fall allergy capitals based on several environmental and medical factors. Greenville, SC, was rated the worst due to its high fall pollen levels, high usage of medications by allergy patients, and a lower-than-average number of board-certified allergists.

Tampa, Dallas, Tulsa and Oklahoma City were also included in the top five rankings. Ragweed, pigweed, plantain, sheep sorrel, sagebrush, and other weeds produce enormous amounts of the pollen that plagues allergy sufferers.

Molds and late-blooming trees can also cause allergies in the fall. Parts of the country with a wet summer season can experience more weed pollen and mold growth fueled by the moisture.

The likelihood that a person will have an allergic reaction depends on a variety of factors, including family history.

Posted 11:55am by Bryce Mursch