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IU Health leaders encourage caution as Little 500 and allergy season clash


By Jordan Guskey



As the weekend of Little 500 arrives, allergy season is in full swing. The two have crossed paths in the past, but Dr. Diana Ebling, medical director for the IU Health Center, said warmer weather in February and March partially sped up the timeline.

OASIS Director Jackie Daniels stood before a School of Public Health class last week to educate students about information that might serve them well during the week leading up to, and the weekend of, the Little 500 bike race. OASIS is an IU Health Center department that works to provide alcohol and drug 
prevention, education and intervention to students.

Mixing a depressant like alcohol with something like Benadryl, which Daniels said she considers a sedative, could be dangerous. As she said this, Daniels noticed a student’s eyes widen.

“What’s your reaction about?” she recalled asking.

“I just never thought about that,” the student replied.

The IU Health Center saw 111 patients in March for allergy visits and two-thirds of the way through April has seen another 209. Ebling said usually the patients exhibit similar expressions of surprise to that of the student Daniels encountered. During counseling sessions at OASIS, Daniels does too.

“I just don’t think people really think about the risks or implications of combining alcohol with over-the-counter medications,” Daniels said.

The tree pollen count right now is high, Ebling said. Alanna Gilbert, a 22-year-old senior, and Becca Pelletz, a 21-year-old junior, are casualties of this pollen infestation.

This week Gilbert said her eyes have burned to the point where she cried while walking to class and Thursday, on April 20 — 4/20 — had someone ask if she was high. Pelletz can’t enjoy the nice weather or take advantage of being 21 at the bars as much as she would like. All she wants to do is stay inside.

“It sucks,” said Pelletz, a member of Alpha Sigma Alpha sorority. “This week my allergies have gone to a whole different level.”

Gilbert, a member of Sigma Delta Tau sorority, said she has taken Claritin since she was 12.

Pelletz said she uses a nose spray, eye drops and daily dose of Allegra. Both are attempting to power through the week and make it to their sorority’s races Friday and support their riders.

“It’s my favorite part of being here,” Pelletz said.

Ebling said the health center gives an even greater amount of guidance to students during this time of the year because they know alcohol is a part of the Little 500 experience.

She, along with Daniels, recommended students ask pharmacists about the medication they’re purchasing over the counter or getting prescribed. Students can call the health center if they have questions.

Most allergy medication doesn’t have any sedating effects, but Ebling said if students are taking medication that does, they shouldn’t drink.

“If somebody was on a sedating medicine and had alcohol, they could have increased sedation,” Ebling said.

Daniels cautions those who volunteer to be designated drivers to consider the effects of allergy medication.

“Ultimately, just don’t risk it, please, because you just never know,” Daniels said.

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