Lots of people are excited about the spring sun bringing warmer temperatures after what has been a long winter. But many others are dreading the next few weeks- allergy sufferers- and with good reason. This allergy season is expected to be a rough one.
Spring can be brutal for people with allergies, whose symptoms can include coughing, runny noses, sneezing, and in some cases, sinus infections.
"You could be allergic to anything," said Dr. Puneet Bajaj, a board-certified allergist with Geisinger Medical Center. But he notes that pollen allergies are most common.
He says we have the long, cold winter to thank for what is expected to be a record-high allergy season.
"A lot of trees that would blossom in February or March haven't started blooming still. That's why we're expecting that the next few weeks, as the weather warms up rapidly, simultaneously many trees will start blossoming," said Dr. Bajaj.
Allergy symptoms can range from mild to severe, and include itchy nose and eyes, sneezing, and dark circles under your eyes. In some cases they can include breathing problems, sleep loss, and fatigue,
For a mild reaction, Dr. Bajaj recommends trying an over-the-counter antihistamine. But in more severe cases, he recommends allergy testing.
I volunteered using what's called a scratch test. A number of different allergens- from elm and maple to cats and dogs- were applied to my arms. After a period of time I was checked to see if small welts had appeared. If I'd been allergic to something in particular, my arm would have looked like it was full of mosquito bites. It turns out I'm not allergic to anything- which is what I suspected. But I realize I'm lucky and, in this part of Pennsylvania, in the minority.
Even if you're not tested or opt to not take medication, there are still things you can do to ease allergy symptoms. Avoid being outside in the morning, specifically between 5am and 10am, when pollen is high. And take a shower when you get home to get all of that pollen out of your clothes and hair.
"If it's a warm breezy day, it's a high pollen day, as compared to a wet day or a cold day, usually low pollen days," said Dr. Bajaj.