Spring allergy season arriving with a vengeance

Allergy season is arriving early this year. // WSBT 22 photo

Local doctors are seeing a spike in patients coming in with allergy complaints.

There are already a lot of people dealing with a plethora of symptoms including runny, stuffy, or itchy noses, post-nasal drip, sneezing, itchy eyes, coughing and difficulty breathing.

Hotter-than-usual temperatures recently have sped up spring blooms, and pollen is already in the air.

Doctors say many people who usually have symptoms in April have already started to have symptoms.

"We've been having higher pollen levels really across the country. Each year it gets a little bit higher. If that's been a pattern -- if the pattern continues -- we may have a pretty robust year,” says Christina Barnes, an allergist at The South Bend Clinic.

Right now, the two big allergens are tree pollen and outdoor mold.

If you've never had any allergies but are starting to get symptoms, doctors recommend you see an allergist and get tested.

Unfortunately there’s no way you can prevent yourself from getting allergies, but there are ways to reduce your symptoms.

Doctors suggest allergy sufferers try to avoid airing out your house or car with open windows. Keep the air conditioning on if you have it.

Pollen levels tend to be highest first thing in the morning, so doctors recommend keeping your windows closed while you sleep. Keeping your windows open overnight is one of the worst things that you can do for pollen allergy.

If you've been outside all day and are still having a difficult time, try taking a shower.

There are also medications that can help reduce your sniffling. Check in with your doctor about over the counter antihistamines, sinus rinses and nasal sprays.

"Some of the over the counter antihistamines are some of the first line medications. They oftentimes work. They work pretty quickly. They're not always the strongest especially if you have a lot of congestion – like stuffy nose,” says Barnes. “Some of the newer over-the-counter nasal sprays like Flonase and Nasanex, Nasacort - those are OK to take. You just want to check with your doctor, too, and just to make sure those are a good idea – also so that you know how long to take those as well. Another thing that you can do if you’re having a really difficult time – you can try a sinus rinse. They have sinus rinses over the counter. You just want to be careful to follow the directions on those, too."

Now we’re dealing with tree pollen. In May and June, grass is what we'll see next. Then we’ll see general weeds and followed by ragweed in the fall.

"If patients know what they're allergic to – we talk about the time of the year – especially the time that particular person should start medications,” says Barnes. “Often times especially, if allergies are severe, we try to have them start their medications before that time of the year. For instance if their biggest time of year is going to be the middle of April – this is the perfect time to make sure that they are on those medications very regularly."

There’s a pollen counter on the roof of the South Bend Clinic downtown.

Starting Monday, they will let the public know daily how much pollen is in the air.

Despite changes in pollen levels day to day, Barnes says you shouldn’t stop taking your allergy medicine during the allergy season.

“It rains that day, the pollen count is going to be low. If it's warm, a little bit of the breeze, the pollen count is going to be a little bit higher. So you don't really want to just rely day to day because otherwise you could end up having problems, and you should stay on your medications," Barnes says.

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