This year, allergy season arrived earlier than usual and, according to Vaden, seems to be affecting more students around campus than past years.
Although the definite number of students affected by allergies can only be estimated, this years numbers seem to be higher than in the past.
“Allergies are always one of our top 20 diagnoses at Vaden,” said Dr. Robyn Tepper, clinical assistant professor of medicine. “We are running ahead of last year by about 75 diagnoses so far. It is hard to know how many students are suffering from allergies, as most can manage their symptoms without coming in for a visit.”
According to Vaden, the definition of an allergic reaction is when, “your immune system reacts to a foreign substance (i.e. pollen, bee venom, dust mites or pet dander) that doesn’t cause a reaction in most other people.”
In the spring, common allergens in the area that affect students include mulberry, oak and ash. These plants can be found around campus, so students are often exposed to their pollen. Some of the most common reactions to these allergens include sneezing, nasal congestion, itchy or watery eyes and coughing.
Students around campus have been feeling the effects of these various pollens. Many state that their allergy symptoms can even hinder them from performing their best in class.
“My allergies provide overall discomfort and also interfere with my schoolwork,” said Albert Gianatan ’18. “When I have itchy eyes, it really takes my concentration off what I’m reading or whatever I happen to be doing at the moment.”
Allergy season this year seems to have started earlier than past years, which could potentially be attributed to the current drought affecting the area.
“My sense is that this allergy season has hit a little bit earlier,” said Jacob Dalder ’15, Peer Health Educator at Otero. “I think because we’ve had a particularly dry winter, that has in some ways brought the spring and all the allergens associated with spring earlier.”
There are many measures that students can take to limit their exposure to allergens throughout the day.
“When the pollen count is high and especially on dry windy days, stay indoors as much as possible,” Tepper said. “Take a shower, wash your hair and remove the clothes you wore all day when you come in for the night to discontinue your exposure to allergens.”
In addition, over-the-counter medication is available to students whose allergies are interfering with everyday life and activities. The common medications that Vaden recommends include non-sedating antihistamines, such as fexofenadine, loratadine and cetirizine, and nasal steroids.
However, students should always be informed about the medications they are taking.
“With all medications, there are potential side effects and it is important to be aware of these and carefully follow the directions,” Tepper said.
Many allergy medications are most effective when taken before being exposed to irritants.
“Try to take the medication before symptoms are bothering you,” Dalder said. “If there’s a baseline dose that people can take, that they’ve figured out works for them, that can help a lot with the aggravation. But you can take it after the fact of course, too.”
Allergy season usually ends in mid-May.
Contact Stephanie Zhang at szhang3 ‘at’ stanford.edu.