Allergy symptoms surge with pollen counts

by Symptom Advice on April 22, 2012

SALT LAKE CITY — Cedar, oak, birch, cottonwood.

They’re a big part of the local landscape, but they’re also causing Utahns a lot of trouble lately.

“We had a relatively warm winter and what might be perceived as an early or mild spring and this has promoted very high pollen counts,” said Dr. Charles Rogers, a board-certified allergist with Allergy Associates of Utah and Intermountain Medical Center. Rogers works out of two offices and definitely keeps busy this time of year.

Pollen counts for a variety of trees are already way above average, “extra high,” according to Intermountain Allergy and Asthma, which produces daily measures of what’s in the air in the Salt Lake Valley.

“This year is the same or worse than other years,” Rogers said. “But it has come on somewhat earlier.”

Tree pollens are typically bad from March through June, grass pollens pick up in late April and are prevalent through July, and weed season is worst from July to October. this year, many trees have been pollinating since February.

“These things have a tremendous negative impact on quality of life,” said Dr. Craig Moffat, a board-certifed allergist at Alta View Hospital and the Intermountain Sandy Clinic. He said allergies have a tendency to interfere with school, work and daily life, often leading to decreased productivity and absenteeism.

“The best treatment is to change your parents or change your genes,” Moffat joked. “But since we can’t do that, there’s actually really good therapy available.”

Allergies, he said, are inherited from a person’s parents. if one parent has allergies, children have a 33 percent chance of also having allergies. The percentage increases to 66 percent when both parents suffer from allergies. Moffat’s family history (he has one parent with allergies) actually helped him determine his own career path, as he wanted to help others find relief.

Children aren’t typically affected by seasonal allergies until age 5, and Moffat said symptoms continue to get worse through a person’s 20s and 30s, when they peak and eventually fade away at age 70 or 80.

Both doctors said initial appointments with an allergist or a primary care physician involve recording a patients’ history and examining symptoms.

Typical symptoms for seasonal allergies, Moffat said, include red, itchy, watery eyes and runny nose, sneezing and itchiness.

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