Price of milder winter: A strong allergy season
Nothing comes free in this world. "This year we enjoyed a very mild winter only to realize this is translating into an early and rather robust allergy season," said Ashtabula County Medical Center Allergy and Immunology Specialist Akhil Chouksey, MD, FACAAI. A mild winter, followed by early warm temperatures, means allergy sufferers are already feeling the effects of blossoming trees and flowers.
In northeast Ohio, typically, a long and harsh winter freezes the ground and spring does not usually arrive until May. "This year for the first time I have seen the grass mowing as early as the beginning of April – something I never saw in this area of the country," Dr. Chouksey said. :Grass and tree pollens are very potent allergens and I am already busy taking care of the allergy flare ups which has resulted in recurrent sinus problems, headaches, red and watery eyes, asthma flare ups and skin rashes."
Dr. Chouksey said it might be very easy to confuse ongoing nasal/sinus/chest symptoms with the flu or common cold, but you should still see an allergy specialist to rule out chronic allergies.
"With the amount of allergens such as pollen and mold in the air, those who suffer from allergies should have already started taking their allergy medication," he said. "Mold is the biggest concern, especially after all this spring rain and our proximity to the lake, but tree pollen and flowers are now into the budding and blooming stage. It will only make it worse."
Mold and pollen allergies have many of the same symptoms:
- Nasal congestion
- Runny nose
- Frequent throat clearing
- Red and watery eyes
- Sinus pressure and heaviness
- Raspy voice
- Coughing and wheezing
- Generalized itching
- Skin rashes
However, there are additional symptoms that give away what allergen is affecting you. Mold allergies affect the throat and upper chest to produce an itchy throat, tightness in your chest, and possibly wheezing. Mold may also trigger or worsen asthma symptoms for those who suffer from asthma. Pollen allergies may create sinus pressure, swelling around the eyes (possibly bluish color beneath the eyes), and potentially decreased sense of taste or smell.
Dr. Chouksey said there are many things you can do around the home to lessen the effects of allergies, but determining what allergens are affecting you should be a first step toward breathing more comfortably.
"I tell patients that over-the-counter antihistamines or decongestants can help, but we can target your specific allergens with the right diagnosis and treatment," he said. "I also advise patients to be smart about outdoors activities. Wear a dust mask if you are working outside or, better yet, stay indoors with the windows closed if the local weather forecast calls for high pollen. You should shower more frequently, especially before bed, to wash away pollen from your skin and hair."
To determine what allergens are affecting you, schedule an appointment with an allergy specialist for simple, fast, and convenient testing to know the answer. Dr. Chouksey sees patients at The Ashtabula Clinic. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Chouksey, call 440-997-6969. For more details about allergies, visit www.ACMCHealth.org and search for allergies.