Eyes itchy? Throat scratchy? Feel like you’re sneezing more than you’re breathing?
Blame the mild winter, which prompted springtime to arrive in North Texas earlier than usual — and with it the dreaded allergy season.
“This is the time of year where trees are releasing clouds of pollen,” said Bob Lanier, a Fort Worth allergist.
The most common culprits are tree pollens, including elm, maple and oak, according to Entdocs.com. Grass pollens have been problematic this spring.
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Last year had lots of good weather, lots of rain which was good for trees. Now they’ve grown and are going to put out a prolific amount of pollen.
Bob Lanier, Fort Worth allergist
Spring allergies are most prevalent from mid-January through mid-May before summer arrives, bringing a whole different level of miserableness.
Lanier said the mild winter is not responsible for the volume of pollen, but simply for its release. The high pollen counts can be blamed on last year’s record-setting rainfall.
“Last year had lots of good weather, lots of rain which was good for trees,” Lanier said. “Now they’ve grown and are going to put out a prolific amount of pollen.”
A steady dose of wind plays a major role in the distribution of pollen, Lanier said, explaining that pollen can fly anywhere from 1 to more than 300 miles.
And when pollen is in the air, allergy sufferers do just that: suffer.
Itching, especially in the eyes and throat, congestion, sneezing and a clear runny nose are common allergy symptoms, said Dr. Justin Smith, a Cook Children’s Medical Center pediatrician.
Over-the-counter medications such as Claritin, Zyrtec and Allegra may work for many, but some will need to see a doctor and undergo allergy testing, which may result in getting regular allergy shots.
Help is available in many forms, doctors say.
Tips to fight off ill effects
▪ For most, a regimen of antihistamines and steroid nasal sprays may help. But nasal sprays must be used before the onset of symptoms to be effective.
▪ Over-the-counter medications such as Claritin, Zyrtec and Allegra may work for many, but some will need to see a doctor and undergo allergy testing, which may result in getting regular allergy shots.
“If your allergies are interfering with your quality of life and requiring a significant amount of maintenance, it’s time to come in and see a specialist,” Lanier said.
▪ Wash your hands and face regularly to remove pollens and other irritants and leave your shoes outside. Shoes can track in pollen and other allergens.
▪ Shower immediately after working outside or spending time outside. This will get the pollen off your skin and out of your hair.
▪ Wear close-fitting or "wrap-around" sunglasses to reduce pollen in the eyes. Use re-wetting eyedrops to wash out pollen. This is especially important for contact lens wearers.
▪ If you are susceptible to spring allergies, stay inside as much as possible when pollen counts are high and keep your windows closed.
Allergies or cold?
Because allergy season often coincides with cold and flu season, it’s important to know the difference. If a fever is present, it’s most likely related to an infection or possibly the flu, Smith said.
If the medicine you’re taking for allergies isn’t helping after a week or more, see a doctor for an opinion and treatment suggestions.
Smith said severe allergies in children can trigger sinus and ear infections. If a child has been sick more than a week, infection rather than just allergies may be the culprit.
People with allergies have a strong defense system and better immune system.
For those suffering from moderate to severe allergies, there is a silver lining, though it may be hard to believe given the current pollen count.
People with allergies actually have a strong defense system and better immune system, Lanier said, and studies show that people with allergies can live three to five years longer.
“I tell people — you’re going to live a long time — but you’re going to pay a tax for it,” Lanier said.
This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.
Azia Branson; 817-390-7547, @aziabranson