Winter's snow may mean allergy misery

Winter's snow may mean allergy misery

CHAMPAIGN — The harsh winter may be over, but it's still got a little kick in store for allergy sufferers.

All that snow that fell over East Central Illinois provided a nice protective ground cover and lots of moisture that should combine to yield a good spring growth of trees, grasses and weeds.

From February on, trees start absorbing moisture, "and when you have ample snow cover, you have ample moisture," says Urbana city arborist Mike Brunk.

More tree growth brings more tree pollen, a major culprit of spring allergy misery.

Dr. John Zech, a Carle allergy physician, says he's already started seeing some patients being bothered by tree pollen and a bit of mold.

"Spring is here," he says.

Spring allergy season runs through May, and then some people suffer from grasses in the summer and ragweed in August and September, Zech says.

"We have some very long allergy seasons in central Illinois," he adds.

Dr. Amit Date, a Christie Clinic otolaryngologist, recalls symptoms kicking up more at this time last year due to an unseasonably warm spring, and he sees the cold weather delaying allergy season this year.

"As of now we're not seeing a ton of it because of the cold weather," he said.

There's a down side to a later spring allergy season, Date says. That would mean some people could suffer the effects of tree pollen and grass allergies at the same time.

"It could be more intense," he says.

The two doctors advice against waiting to treat allergy symptoms.

A seasonal allergy can feel like a common cold. Symptoms include sneezing, runny nose, congestion, fatigue, coughing and "generally feeling miserable," Zech says. But you know it's likely an allergy and not a cold or virus if those symptoms don't go away after a week to 10 days.

Over-the-counter allergy medications work for some people, and for those who need additional treatment, there are prescription medications and allergy shots that can work for the long-term, Zech said.

Saline rinses can also be very helpful and are very safe, Date says.

Zech says allergies are the leading cause of children missing school and young adults missing work, and it doesn't have to be that way.

"It's totally treatable, so people don't have to feel miserable," he says.

Fast facts

1. Nasal allergies affect about 50 million people in the U.S., according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

2. Dogs can also suffer from allergies, and they can track pollen and mold from outside into the home.

3. See a list of allergy-producing plants and trees, broken down by season, in your very own county:

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