Normally this time of year, doctors are seeing colds but instead, they are seeing sneezing, and itchy, watery eyes. Allergy season has arrived earlier than usual this year and symptoms will most likely last longer than normal, in the Bay Area, due to the California drought. Colds and allergies appear very similar. Both of them create runny noses, sneezing, fatigue and congestion. A cold, however, can also have fever, body aches, coughing and a sore throat. Allergies include a runny nose that remains clear and itchy, watery eyes. Allergists are recommending people with allergies in the Bay Area avoid pollen. Doctors and allergists are on high alert this year. Keep the windows closed at home. Use air conditioning in the car and stay inside. However, be warned, a brutal allergy season is not isolated by drought and the Bay Area, it will be brutal everywhere.
Experts believe that the 2015 allergy season will be ruthless, a high that is worrisome to allergists. According to studies, 35 million Americans, are, in some form, affected by pollen. The trees are promising pollen counts to be higher than usual. Symptoms this year could be more severe and last longer due to an early spring and a wet winter. It is believed that global warming is also part of the severity of each allergy season.
Trees are not that sensitive to water supply, so a few months of desert weather are not going to really change the pollinating habits of the trees. The lack of rain, however, will prevent the pollen from being washed away by the rain, so symptoms will last longer than normal.
Grass allergies, common in the Bay Area could be less severe because grass does depend on water. If the drought continues for three or four years, however, allergies will be impacted. People could plant drought-resistant trees, bringing on a brand new set of allergies. Pollen patterns are changing with the climate. There are sites that offer five-day pollen counts like a five-day weather forecast.
There is a higher prevalence of carbon dioxide in the air from pollution. This will cause certain pollens to become more potent and prevalent. Climate changes and the increase of carbon dioxide, could possibly create a cycle that will intensify each allergy season for many years to come, putting allergists on high alert.
Allergies are patient-specific and affected by weather patterns in specific microclimates. One tree may have more pollen than normal which could cause the worst season for the person with allergies from that tree. Exposure is very important. Some who go out and are around the trees that are heavy with pollen will be miserable and those who avoid pollen and the outdoors will feel just fine.
There is also the experience of poorer air quality. Pollution and second-hand smoke can weaken the immune system increasing IgE. IgE is an antibody that is concerned with how the body reacts to allergens. This can also make allergies worse. Chemicals in the air can attach themselves to pollen causing it to become more aggressive.
It is important to get allergies under control. If the over-the-counter medications are not helping, a board certified allergist can run some tests and prescribe something that will handle your allergies more specifically. There are newer medications that dissolve under the tongue to prevent symptoms. Some patients make good immunotherapy candidates. Antihistamines, both over-the-counter and prescription strength, treat allergy symptoms, but immunotherapy treats the actual allergies. Start allergy treatments earlier than usual so your system is prepared. Also it might be beneficial to consider anaphylaxis shots. Consult with a physician to start the injections as soon as possible.
An allergist should also test for foods because some foods can react with certain environmental pollens. For example, someone who is allergic to a birch tree could react to hazelnuts, apples, raw tomatoes, carrots, kiwi and celery. Full knowledge of one’s allergies will help to know what foods and pollen should be avoided.
Besides seeing an allergist when pollen counts are high, physicians recommend sleeping with an air conditioner instead of an open window. Pollen sticks to skin, clothing and hair. Shower and change when coming in from outside is best, especially before going to bed. Be vigilant to keep pollen out of the bedroom. Having personally high alertness concerning allergies can go a long way.
By Jeanette Smith
Photo courtesy of Susanne Nilsson – Flickr License