Pollen clouds remind us it’s spring
A cloud of pollen was stirred up by a Department of Natural Resources helicopter in LaGrange, Georgia.
Feeling like your allergies are in overdrive? You’re not alone.
Pollen counts are increasing across the country in recent weeks forecasters at Pollen.com say, which means nearly 50 million Americans will suffer from some combination of a runny nose; watery, itchy eyes; or sneezing as their allergy symptoms ramp up, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.
“It’s hard to predict, and every year it seems like it comes sooner than we think, but it’s definitely here and is only going to get worse the next few weeks,” said Dr. Saira Sheikh, a board certified allergist/immunologist and rheumatologist and the Director, Clinical Trials, Division of Rheumatology, Allergy and Immunology at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.
The pollen count is highest in the Midwest, including as far north as Wyoming. The Northeast and South aren’t far behind, according to Pollen.com, the online allergy forecaster run by health care consultant and researcher IQVIA.
A video recently captured by the Department of Natural Resources in Georgia showed just how much pollen is out there. When the departments helicopter zoomed past a tree, a gigantic yellow tornado of pollen swirled from the branches, towering above the trees.
Pollen clouds stir up bad memories
Each spring, plants release tiny pollen grains to fertilize plants of the same species and sometimes they result in massive yellow pollen clouds like this one in Tennessee. Most of the pollens that cause allergic reactions come from trees, weeds and grasses, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.
A tree trimming company caught a pollen bomb in slo-mo after cutting down a tree in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
A viral pollen cloud from last year showed a massive plume of pollen falling from a tree in New Jersey. These clouds might be common in pollen-heavy regions like the Midwest and Northeast, but they could start showing up where they have not been seen before.
“Places where we haven’t seen environmental allergies like in Arizona are now seeing an increase in allergies. There’s no relief anywhere,” Sheikh said.
Reaching for a tissue? How to combat pesky allergies
While counteracting symptoms before the season begins is the best way to treat your allergies, do not worry if you have not already started. There are still plenty of ways to prevent the worst of your seasonal afflictions, as USA TODAY reported a few years ago.
The first step is making sure you are aware of exactly what you are allergic to, according to Sheikh.
“The best step is to make sure they get a correct diagnosis. It can really be life altering,” Sheikh said. “The phrase ‘it’s just seasonal allergies’ undermines the quality of life impact this has.”
More: Like people, dogs can struggle with seasonal allergies
Over-the-counter medications like nasal sprays, antihistamines and eye drops offer some relief. For most people, nasal sprays including Nasacort and Flonase can take up to several days to kick in at an effective level, but everyone responds differently, experts say.
More: Google wants to save you from the sniffles with new pollen forecasts.
If over-the-counter medications fail to work or symptoms persist longer than the traditional pollen season, an allergist can offer other forms of treatment, including allergy shots or drugs. Allergists might also prescribe other medications, including stronger antihistamine nasal sprays.
Finally, see a doctor if your symptoms start to affect your daily ability to function.
While it might take a few years, allergy shot treatments have the potential to eventually rid patients of their symptoms forever, Sheikh said. After going twice a week in the initial six-month to one-year phase of treatment, patients might eventually only need a shot once a month before they can live free from their fear of the yellow cloud.
Contributing: Linda Lombroso, The (Westchester County, N.Y.) Journal News
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