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Spring allergies hitting earlier than usual? Blame the weather

spring allergies.jpg
Brittany Sweeney
A mild winter makes for a bad spring allergy season.

BETHLEHEM, Pa. — The sight of blooming flowers is a reminder that spring has sprung across the Lehigh Valley.

And so have seasonal allergies.

A quarter of adults in the United States suffer from seasonal allergies, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

However, there are a few ways to lessen the low of that pollen punch.

  • Spring allergy season typically peaks in April and May in the Lehigh Valley
  • A mild winter could make for an earlier, more severe season
  • Closing windows, wearing a hat and glasses, and changing clothing after being outside all can help alleviate symptoms

"April and May are more of the peak season for spring allergy, but year to year there is a variability when the season officially starts, based on the weather effects and how warm the previous winter has been,” said Dr. Joon Park, an allergy immunologist at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York.
Park also is a fellowship-trained allergist/immunologist and member of the Middletown, NY, office of ENT and Allergy Associates, the largest ear, nose, throat, allergy and audiology practice in the United States.

Mild winter equals bad allergies

Park said the mild winter could lead to an earlier, more severe allergy season this spring.

"When you have a warm winter obviously that leads to an early pollination season for a lot of plants, which means you know detection of pollens in the air earlier than usual."
Dr. Joon Park, allergy immunologist, Mount Sinai Hospital

"When you have a warm winter, obviously that leads to an early pollination season for a lot of plants, which means, you know, detection of pollens in the air earlier than usual.

"So we may see an earlier start with a spring pollen season if the previous winter has been rather mild,” Park said.

"I am beginning to see slow emergence of the symptoms of typical allergy symptoms such as runny nose or sneezing, some itching in their mouth, itchy ears, as well as itchy, watery eyes."

Park said treatment starts with knowing to what a person is allergic, and avoiding that allergen as much as possible.

“You should know what you're allergic to; that's where the treatment begins for prevention against," he said. "So proper diagnosis — very important.”

He suggested doing so by keeping windows in the home and in the car closed, tracking pollen counts and, when outside, he said to wear a hat and glasses and change clothing afterward.

Medication shortages

Some allergy sufferers have another issue to contend with this year when seeking relief: medication shortages.

Those who suffer from asthma, which can be caused by allergies, occasionally need a drug called Albuterol, which is now in short supply.

When treating seasonal allergies, Park said, other medications that are in good supply can help in treating symptoms of seasonal allergies.

He also said allergy shots are an effective way to build immunity over time.