Local News

The sneezing season is longer, earlier this year

SEBRING - When George Menendez suffers from watery eyes and a runny nose every day he knows he is experiencing bad allergies, like this year. “The allergy pills only do so much,” he wrote on Highlands Today’s Facebook page. Katie Lindau Wilson has been like this since February. “This year has been my worst so far. If they are saying it’s still to come, I am doomed!” she wrote.
Seasonal allergy sufferers may want to brace themselves for what could be a longer-than-usual allergy season, which experts say also starts sooner this year. The season is expected to kick off two weeks earlier in many parts of the country and is expected to extend through October, a month longer. The Highlands County Health Department’s spokesman Tom Moran said the health department’s Dr. Priyamvada Gujjar treated three patients Tuesday with allergy symptoms. “I have heard a severe allergy-type climate is expected in Florida,” he said. Bad seasonal allergies are triggered when more tree, grass or weed pollen is in the air and hangs around longer, usually because of warm winter and/or early spring and lack of rain. Moran said smoke coming from wildfires could also trigger allergy-like symptoms. Allergies occur when the immune system over-reacts to the foreign substance that is breathed in, such as pollen and mold spores. The allergens cause an exaggerated reaction in the nose, eyes and sinuses, leading to stuffiness, runny nose, watery eyes and itching. He recommends that people say indoors, change their a/c air filters to let air move around freely in the house and wash their hair in the night so they don’t sleep with any pollen. Some people go to weather-related web sites to get a pollen count forecast in case they need to take precautions. One of these is pollen.com. The 30-day pollen count history for Sebring, from March 4 to April 4, consistently showed high numbers from 11 to 10. The count runs from 0 to 12. The pollen level forecast for Thursday was a low 2.9 because of the rain. But a four-day forecast showed the pollen count jumping up, from 4.9 for today to 9.6 for Saturday and 9.9 Sunday. The big pollen culprits are junipers, oaks and bayberries, according to the web site. Weather.com, which also comes up with allergy and pollen forecasts, showed a low pollen count for today and Saturday along with a moderate forecast for Sunday. Experts estimate that 35 million Americans suffer from allergies because of airborne pollen. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America has a list of recommendations to prevent such seasonal allergies. One of these is to shut out pollen. “When you clean your windows, do you see a film of pollen on the frame or sill? One easy way to prevent pollen from entering your home is to keep windows and doors closed. Use an air filter and clean it regularly or run the air conditioner and change the filter often.” Another is to avoid mold spores. “Mold spores grow in moist areas. If you reduce the moisture in the bathroom and kitchen, you will reduce the mold. Fix any leaks inside and outside of your home and clean moldy surfaces. Plants can carry pollen and mold too, so limit the number of houseplants. Dehumidifiers will also help reduce mold.” People are also asked to remember that pollen can come from any vegetation. “Before you shrug off fancy flowers in fear of sniffles, remember that the types of pollen that most commonly cause your allergies are from plain-looking plants, such as trees, grasses and weeds. These plants produce small and light pollen, perfect for catching a ride on a gentle breeze.”