Tree pollens kicking off allergy season

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Gina Duwe
Wednesday, April 23, 2014

JANESVILLE--While spring weather is welcome relief from a harsh winter, it also spells the beginning of itchy, puffy eyes and runny noses for allergy sufferers.

Local allergists know spring has arrived because in the last week or two they've been seeing patients with tree pollen allergies.

People are coming in with itchy eyes and running noses, said Dr. Tad Johnson, an allergist at Mercy Clinic East.

The culprit: “You can see that little blush of the buds on the trees,” he said. “The tree pollens are the most severe for the eyes.”

Allergists say they can't predict what kind of allergy season lies ahead, but so far, it's been about average. A real wet month, such as an April a couple years ago, can wash the pollen out of the air, Johnson said. This month has been a good mix of rain and sun to encourage trees to put out pollens, he said.

Grass allergies arrive in about May, while weeds don't start until late August, said Dr. John Kelly, an allergist at Dean Clinic. Outdoor molds become an issue in summer, when the hot, dry weather allows the spores to spread, he said. Mold is growing now because of the moisture.

Kelly said it's important for allergy sufferers to begin medication before symptoms start.

“Get on top of it ahead of the game. Don't wait until you're in trouble,” he said. “It's harder to put the genie back in the bottle—it takes a little more to get it under control.”

Over-the-counter medications are the first course of treatment, but if those don't work and the symptoms are interfering with work, school or sleep, then it's time to seek help from a doctor, Kelly said.

Nasacort, a nasal spray, previously was available by prescription only but now is available over the counter, he said.

All the major antihistamines have been available over the counter for a few years, Kelly said. He said they cost as little as $1 a month through places such as Sam's Club, Costco and Amazon.com, compared to higher drug store prices.

Most people who have allergies first start suffering symptoms in childhood, though allergies can come on throughout adulthood, he said. Hormonal changes during pregnancy can be a trigger for new allergies, he said, as well as a new family pet.

Skin or blood testing is available to determine allergy type, he said.

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