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Rains triggering allergies, dust storms spawning valley fever

PHOENIX — This week’s rains appear to be causing problems for allergy sufferers.

And when it’s not the rain, the dust storms could be dredging up the fungus that creates valley fever.

Dr. Joseph Mittel of Banner Health said he’s already seeing an uptick of allergy sufferers after all the rains.

And it’s just starting.

“Over the next few weeks, with the pollen count starting to rise due to some blooming plants, you worry about the usual hay fever symptoms of itchy, watery eyes and sneezing and things of that nature,” Mittel said.

Pollen isn’t the only culprit.

“Mold, mildew and things like that start to grow and raise their ugly heads, and that can also cause worsening hay fever-type symptoms,” he said.

Mittel suggested that staying indoors with windows closed will help stop the allergies. Doing certain daily activities at night will also help.

“Shower before bedtime,” he advised. “That pollen is all over your shirt and all through your hair. If you sleep in it all through the night, that can often trigger symptoms.”

For those who still cough and sneeze all through the night, head to the local drug store. Mittel said that there are several over-the-counter medications that may help relieve symptoms.

There is no over-the-counter relief for anyone with valley fever.

The chance of getting it is part of living in Arizona. Valley fever is caused by a fungus in the soil that gets into the body through the lungs. As usual, summertime here has come with dust storms.

Dr. Priaya Radhakrishnan, chair of medicine at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix, isn’t convinced there is a tie-in between haboobs and the increase of valley fever cases.

“We have looked at the impact of dust storms in valley fever cases and I don’t think we can conclusively say.”

She attributed the higher numbers of cases diagnosed to better early detection.

“If you have a good immunity system most of the time if you contract valley fever it’s a self-limited disease and you’re able to take care of it,” she said.

Valley fever can feel like a cold or the flu. Most people get better without treatment, but in some cases it can be deadly if it’s not treated.

“Unfortunately in a small percentage of patients it can spread,” Radhakrishnan said. “… It can be like cancer because it grows very slowly and oftentimes it takes several months or years to impact the entire system.

“We’ve seen patients with bad bone disease and it’s hard to treat. The treatment itself is pretty toxic as well. If you don’t have good immunity then it’s more likely for the disease to spread.”