Early spring means early symptoms for allergy sufferers

by Symptom Advice on March 27, 2012

York, PA – Shannon McElroy wakes up with a stuffy nose almost every day.

Since moving to York from Baltimore in 2010, she has had reactions to seasonal allergies. this year, she’s one of the many people experiencing early spring hay fever — seasonal allergic rhinitis — symptoms because of the warmer-than-usual winter.

McElroy, 31, said her nasal congestion started becoming more severe in mid-February.

“They have really been bothering me . . . because the weather has been so weird,” she said.

McElroy takes Alavert and uses Nasonex, but she hasn’t yet been to an allergist to figure out what exactly is causing her reactions.

“I’m hoping that I can get in to see an allergist soon and maybe get some relief,” she said.

Dr. David Coutin of Allergy & Asthma Consultants Inc. in Spring Garden Township said tree pollen is the main culprit in the spring. he said he’s already seen an increase in patients with sneezing, itchy eyes, nasal congestion and difficulty breathing.

Coutin said that trees started pollinating early this year and that the pollen count is about 25 percent higher than last year so far. Tree pollen counts peak at different times each year, with the average being the last week of April or first week of may. he said the count peaked last year April 8. he anticipates an early peak this year, as well.

Kelly Navarro, lab supervisor, said she recorded a pollen count Monday of 85 grains per cubic meter in York County, with maple as the dominant pollinator. She said that 90 and above is considered high and that many of the local trees — willow, pine, oak, maple, cedar and juniper — are producing pollen.

People with hay fever can be allergic to one or several trees. For those who are allergic to all pollinating trees: “This (Monday) is not a good day for them,” Navarro said.

Coutin said an early start to seasonal allergic rhinitis doesn’t necessarily mean a longer period of symptoms for sufferers. After tree pollen, pollen from grass, weeds and ragweed — respectively — trigger reactions until the first frost.

He said temperature and rainfall affect how soon grass pollinates.

Coutin said there could be some relief for people with allergies today if the temperature dropped to freezing last night and temporarily shut down pollen production.

However, if you have symptoms, don’t wait for them to blow over.

“Allergies do not go away,” he said.

771-2101; @leighzaleski

Allergy advice

Dr. Michael Nickels of Allergy & Asthma Consultants in Spring Garden Township said people suffering from seasonal allergies typically use antihistamines such as Allegra, Zyrtec and Claritin; as well as Flonase and Nasonex.

He recommends allergy shots when a patient’s symptoms aren’t reduced by medications.

Nickels said people with hay fever should try to avoid pollen by closing windows, bathing pets and showering after being outside.

“If it’s bad, see your allergist,” he said.

Natural remedies

Dr. Diane Hawk of Hawk’s Natural Health Consultations in Springettsbury Township said she received some early calls from clients suffering from seasonal allergies once trees started budding. One of her East Coast suppliers ran out of an allergy formula she offers because of the early onset, so she had to order it from the West Coast.

People who are sensitive to medications or who want to avoid drowsiness might seek natural remedies. Hawk advises specific herbs and supplements based on an individual’s history and condition. She provided these general natural recommendations for allergy symptoms:

— use Neti Pots and nasal rinses help remove pollen from the nose to mitigate symptoms.

— Eat more vitamin-C-rich foods, such as citrus fruits and broccoli.

— Quercetin, a plant-derived flavonoid found in many fruits, flowers and vegetables, acts as an antihistamine and might reduce allergy symptoms. Stinging Nettles also have an antihistamine effect. These are sold as supplements.

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