Ahh choo! already; Warmer weather means allergy season gets an early startAllergy season struck early and hard this year, following an unusually warm winter and early spring warmth, doctors say. “With the lack of snow and the nice weather, there’s a lot more pollen in the air than usual,” said Dr. Sarah Schatz, a physician in family medicine at Sanford Health in Jamestown.
By: Kari Lucin, The Jamestown Sun
Allergy season struck early and hard this year, following an unusually warm winter and early spring warmth, doctors say.
“With the lack of snow and the nice weather, there’s a lot more pollen in the air than usual,” said Dr. Sarah Schatz, a physician in family medicine at Sanford Health in Jamestown.
Schatz belongs to the 20 percent of the population that suffers from seasonal allergies, also known as hay fever.
Typically caused by pollen from trees, grasses or weeds, seasonal allergies occur when a person’s immune system reacts to pollen as if it were a threat. Symptoms include itchy or watery eyes, a runny or stuffy nose, sneezing, an itchy or sore throat and trouble sleeping. Unlike a cold or flu, there’s typically no fever.
“I peeked at the pollen counts. The tree pollen counts are already moderate,” said Dr. Derek Brickner, a family practice physician at Medcenter One in Jamestown. “Typically what happens is the trees are first to pollinate, then grasses.”
Brickner, too, suffers from seasonal allergies. He hasn’t seen a lot of patients for allergies so far this year, partly because people with allergies generally know what they’ve got and don’t visit a clinic for help until they’ve already tried some over-the-counter remedies, he said.
Though trees seem to be the major contributor to the pollen count in the area for now, they won’t be the only culprit, and the overall allergy season isn’t due to end any time soon.
“The grasses come along fairly quickly after (trees),” Brickner warned. “Weeds isn’t until later in the summer, fall.”
There’s plenty of regional variation in the pollen count, though, and it also varies from day to day partly based on weather conditions.
Current pollen counts are available at WebMD, which tracks overall pollen in the air, but also the levels of grass, weed, tree and mold pollen, for people who are allergic to some, but not all pollen types.
To treat seasonal allergies, the best thing to do is limit exposure to or remove the allergen.
If the pollen count is high, stay inside, Schatz suggested.
Windows should be closed. People should take a shower before bed to help rinse pollen off the hair and skin, preventing it from getting into the sheets. Washing bed clothes and draperies frequently can also help, Schatz said.
If that’s not enough, there are many over-the-counter seasonal allergy treatments, including antihistamines that will stop an itchy or runny nose, as well as sneezing, and decongestants that help with a stuffed-up nose.
“It’s good to start your allergy medication before the allergies hit,” Schatz advised.
People can also try a nasal saline rinse to wash pollen out of their nasal passages, Brickner said.
If avoidance isn’t possible, prevention isn’t enough and over-the-counter medicines aren’t helping, people should visit their doctors.
They might be given prescription-strength allergy medicine or a steroidal nose spray.
A patient might also be referred to an allergist, who can diagnose what specific substances cause the allergy and then administer shots that help desensitize the patient to the substance.
“If it’s to the point where it’s affecting their daily routine — chronic fatigue, daytime activities, at work,” allergy sufferers should come in, Brickner said.
Sun reporter Kari Lucin can be reached at 701-952-8453 or by email at email@example.com