Early spring weather has eyes watering, noses running

by Symptom Advice on March 24, 2012

Runny noses, sneezing, irritable eyes and the dreaded sandpaper-like scratchy throats leave many allergy sufferers desperate for relief as warmer temperatures arrive.

Balmy highs in January combined with temperatures in the 70s in the first part of March are making this year’s allergy season extra irritable.

“the tree pollens are just going wild,” said Jennifer Cantrell, a pharmacist at the Medicine Shoppe at 2431 N. Union Blvd. in central Colorado Springs, noting that the pharmacy has had trouble keeping once-daily antihistamines, such as Zyrtec and Claritin, on the shelf.

Colorado Springs is among cities ranked on the Asthma and Allergy Foundation list of Spring Allergy Capitals. the city is 93rd among the most irritable cities to live in this spring, moving up three spots from 96th in 2011 . the city hit 77th in 2005, the highest during that span.

Knoxville, Tenn. and McAllen, Texas topped the 2012 list with Denver coming in 97th.

Dr. Nathaneal Brady, an allergist with Pikes Peak Allergy & Asthma said mild winter temperatures are the biggest factor in what he says has been an early allergy season. Brady said that “a number of patients have noted symptoms earlier than usual this year.”

“mine are horrible!!” Danielle Love, a University of Colorado Colorado Springs student, commented on the gazette.com Facebook page Wednesday. “They just started as of about two weeks ago. my eyes keep watering and itching. I have a runny nose and I sneeze at least 20 times a day.”

Shelly Toombs Kirby of Colorado Springs also joined in the Facebook conversation, noting she is “taking my allergy meds and it’s not helping at all!”

The National Weather Service confirmed that the Pikes Peak region has had an unusually warm winter, especially during January and the first part of March.

This year’s average high in January was 50.6 degrees, up from the normal 43.2 degrees.

February was right around normal before temperatures spiked again in March, which has seen average highs of 59.2 degrees through the first 20 days. the normal is 52.1.

According to the William Storms Allergy Clinic, one of two pollen count reporting stations in Colorado Springs, levels were “high” on Wednesday. Both Brady and Angel Waldron, a spokeswoman for the allergy foundation, said trees began releasing pollen in early to mid February instead of in March, when Brady said he usually begins telling patients to take their meds.

Even on days when it seems there’s no wind, Waldron said microscopic tree pollen spores can travel up to 400 miles, bringing threats down from the mountains and invading the tree-less plains of eastern El Paso County.

Waldron recommends those with strong allergies stay indoors between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. when pollen counts are highest, run air conditioning instead of opening windows, leave shoes at the door and change clothes when coming indoors and wash their hair at night.

“when you’re outside, hair acts like a mop,” she said. “Anything can get trapped in it.”—Contact Matt Steiner at matt.steiner@gazette.com or follow him on Twitter @gazsteiner.

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