FRIDAY, April 25, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- You may have survived
the worst this winter's polar vortex had to throw at you, but if
you suffer from allergies, better brace yourself for its sibling --
the "pollen vortex."
Allergy experts say that the long, cold winter kept trees
dormant for longer than usual, which means tree pollen season will
overlap with grass pollen and mold seasons this year. And, for
those with multiple environmental allergies, that likely means
extra misery this year.
Plus, many people who start taking preventive allergy
medications in late February or early March may have been lulled
into thinking they could safely put off the use of these
medications. Now they're being caught off-guard.
"People who take preventive medications ahead of time will be OK, but people who wait until they have their symptoms will have more problems. If you wait until you have symptoms, it takes at least a few days before you start feeling relief," said Dr. Joseph Leija, an allergist with Gottlieb Memorial Hospital, part of Loyola University Health System, in Chicago.
Leija, who has been personally measuring levels of pollen for
the Midwest for the National Allergy Bureau for several decades
now, said he normally starts measuring pollen counts in the Chicago
area in February because that's when tree pollen usually
"It was impossible in February this year, and even March. I finally started doing it this month, and there was even one day that I had to cancel the count because the machine was frozen," Leija said.
As soon as the weather starts warming, the tree pollen will come
out in force at about the same time the grass pollen start to be an
issue, Leija explained. And mold can be an issue, too.
The pollen vortex, he said, will be created by "the pollens all
coming in at the same time. The season will probably be shorter,
but people with allergies will be more miserable," he said.
Dr. Robert Valet, an allergist at Vanderbilt University in
Nashville, Tenn., said the tree season started later there as well.
"The trees are usually out at the beginning of March, and they did
seem to get a late start this year," he said. "It will be
interesting to see if the pollen season lasts as long. The grass
season seems to be moving along normally, so the seasons are less
discrete and might be harder to separate this year."
Like Leija, Valet recommends starting preventive allergy
medications. He said nasal steroids take about two weeks to reach
their peak. There's also a new nasal antihistamine available over
Both experts pointed out that new oral allergy immunotherapy for
grass and ragweed pollens were approved by the U.S. Food and Drug
Administration last week. These pills offer an alternative to
Valet said it's too late this season to get protection for grass
pollen, but he said it's a great time to start immunotherapy for
ragweed. The oral immunotherapy is taken once a day, with the first
dose administered at the doctor's office to be sure you don't have
a serious reaction to the pill.
Both allergy experts said while medications are important,
controlling your environment is equally crucial. Use your air
conditioner instead of opening windows to keep pollen out of your
home and car, Valet recommended.
Leija also suggested taking a shower before bed to get the
pollen out of your hair, especially if you've been working in your
Valet said it's also a good idea to wipe down your dogs when
they come in from outside because they can carry in pollen and mold
on their coats. He also suggested bathing your pets at least once a
And, it's possible that sneezing fit you're having has nothing
to do with pollen, Valet pointed out. "People who do a big spring
cleanup in the house might not realize they're reacting to pet
dander and dust mites more than pollen," he said.
If you have a forced air heating and cooling system, one of the
best ways to clean your air is to install a higher-grade furnace
filter, according to Valet. Room air filters with HEPA filters may
also be helpful for people who don't have forced air heating and
cooling, he said.
Learn more about pollen allergies from the
American College of Allergy, Asthma &
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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