Entries in Allergy Season (4)


Spring Could Bring Worst Allergy Season Ever

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- In news that's nothing to sneeze at, seasonal allergy experts are confirming that 2013 allergies are going to start sooner -- and last longer -- in most parts of the country.

The 2013 allergy season is expected to begin about 14 days earlier in many parts of the United States. Experts also believe that seasonal allergies will last about 30 days longer, running through the month of October.

"We're expecting to see a very robust allergy season because of a lot of precipitation during late winter and the warmer temperatures we're seeing now throughout the country," says adult and pediatric allergy specialist Dr. Clifford Bassett, clinical assistant professor of medicine at the New York University School of Medicine and Langone Medical Center.

Higher-than-normal carbon dioxide emissions could be fueling pollen production, in effect telling plants to produce three to five times more pollen. "This is the physical effect of increasing greenhouse gases on certain plants," Dr. Bassett claims.

In fact, United States Department of Agriculture studies found that a single ragweed plant could be producing up to 4 billion pollen grains. "Not only is the pollen more prolific, it seems to be more powerful, supercharged," Dr. Bassett explains.

Additionally, large amounts of precipitation in late winter combined with warmer current temperatures set the stage for excess tree pollen.

Which days will be the worst? Higher levels of pollen generally occur on warm, dry, and windy days, while lower levels of seasonal pollen circulate on calm, wet, and cloudy days.

Dr. Bassett has a few expert tips to help you survive the allergy season:

Gauge It

To get a sense of your seasonal allergy status, visit to take a free allergy relief test. Before starting any type of treatment, get your seasonal allergies confirmed with a simple in-office allergy test; otherwise, you could be treating the wrong problem. Allergy shots may reduce or slow down your allergy problem and have been shown to give long-term relief in nearly 90 percent of patients, Dr. Bassett notes.

Treat Early

If you use nasal or oral antihistamines, steroids, or eye drops for seasonal allergies, don't wait until your symptoms are unbearable to start treatment. "If you see an allergist and get tested, the doctor can quickly individualize treatment, telling you when you should take medications and when to be on pre-treatment or allergy alert."

Be In the Know

Make a habit of checking your local allergy levels. Go to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology's National Allergy Bureau for up-to-date pollen counts. You can even sign up for email alerts or download a smartphone app that tracks pollen counts.

Be Shady

Wear oversized sunglasses to block airborne pollens from hitting your eyes. This can help prevent redness and watery eyes.

Finally, accessorize from the top. Wearing a hat -- preferably a wide-brimmed one -- can help keep pollen and other allergens from landing in your hair and eyes.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Worst of Allergy Season May Be Yet to Come, Experts Say

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Thought the worst of the allergy season was behind you?  Think again.  For many allergy sufferers, the peak of the season may be just ahead.

Things got off to a sneezy, stuffy start earlier than usual this year, when unseasonably warm temperatures in March revved up tree pollen about two weeks ahead of schedule in most areas of the country.

As tree pollen season comes to a close in early May, experts say grass pollen season, which usually begins in late April, is just getting started.  The overlap could compound the misery of many allergy sufferers.

"For people allergic to pollen and grass, they will be double hit," said Dr. David Lang, head of the allergy and immunology section of the Respiratory Institute at the Cleveland Clinic.

The earlier-than-normal start to this allergy season may be made worse for some with allergies, who can become hypersensitive to allergens after being exposed early in the season.  The phenomenon, called nasal priming, may explain why many people feel this season is so much worse than years past.

"Whereas earlier in the season it would take a high level of exposure to produce symptoms, after priming, symptoms are provoked by lower levels," Lang said.  "More people are coming in to see us claiming a higher allergy response than in previous years.  I would suspect that priming is to blame."

Although nearly all areas of the U.S. have been basking in a warmer spring this year, experts said the timing and severity of allergy season varied depending on geographic area.  People living in the Northeast, Midwest, Northwest and Southeast may see the worst of the grass pollen.

"It really depends on where you are.  I'm in Atlanta, and our tree pollen counts peaked a few weeks ago, whereas I would imagine northern areas are peaking now," said Dr. Stanley Fineman, president of the American College of Allergies, Asthma and Immunology.  "But I recently spoke to a colleague in Washington state, who said their season is just gearing up now."

Weather also plays a role.  Warm and breezy spring days mean higher levels of pollen, while rain brings those levels down.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Fall Allergy Season May Be Longest, Strongest this Year

George Doyle/Stockbyte(NEW YORK) -- With record pollen counts already on the board for August, this fall is gearing up to be one of the worst, and longest, allergy seasons yet, according to experts.

Thanks to a particularly wet summer, ragweed pollen levels are surging and standing water left over from summer flooding and Hurricane Irene has increased the amount of mold, a common year-round allergen, in the air.

"We're going to have an allergy double whammy," says Dr. Clifford Bassett, medical director of Allergy and Asthma Care of New York.

To top it all off, the allergy season is expected to last a few weeks longer than usual this year, according to research published earlier this year in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

While spring allergies usually come from pollen from trees and grass, fall allergies are caused almost exclusively by ragweed pollen.  The season usually runs from mid-August until the first frost of the year, around early October, but if the frost is delayed, as is predicted for this year, the allergy season goes on indefinitely until it comes.

For many years, the allergy seasons have been "getting longer and longer ... partly due to global warming," says Estelle Levetin, chairwoman of the aerobiology committee for the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

"As we're seeing warmer and warmer weather, the fall gets warmer and longer and the effect is that there's no frost to kill the ragweed and end the allergy season," she says.

Rising temperatures have produced a similar lengthening of the spring allergy season, which is now starting about a month earlier than it did decades ago, she says.

Climate change isn't only affecting the length of the allergy season, it's affecting the severity.

"A single ragweed plant produces a million pollen grains, but if you expose it to greenhouse gases, it produces three to four times that much," says Bassett.  "So you have climate change making for a longer season, more plants and more potent pollen.  It's like a perfect storm," he says.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Five Tips for Fighting Spring Allergies

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- If you are sneezing and have itchy eyes this spring allergy season, you are not alone. The year 2011 is shaping up to be the worst year for allergy sufferers on record.

More than 35 million Americans suffer from pollen allergies, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. And every year, the United States reportedly spends approximately $21 billion on health costs related to allergies.

A study published Friday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA searched for the cause of a trend towards longer allergy seasons.

Researchers found that a delayed first frost of the fall season and a lengthening of the frost-free season combined with increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have contributed to a longer allergy season. Longer pollen seasons increase human exposure, the duration of symptoms and severity of symptoms.

"Studies have found that not only do [plants] create more pollen, it's more potent," said Dr. Stanley Fineman, president-elect of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology and a practicing physician in Atlanta.

So what can you do if you are one of the millions of Americans who suffer from pollen allergies every year? Fineman gave ABC News the following five tips for avoiding allergies:

1. Get tested to find out exactly to what you are allergic.

2. Consult your physician about possible treatments such as allergy shots and medication.

3. Wash your hair and clothes regularly to get rid of pollen.

4. If you have pets, groom them regularly because they can bring pollen indoors.

5. Stay indoors as much as possible during pollen season to minimize your exposure.

Thankfully, science has been steadily improving the ability to combat pollen allergy symptoms.

"We can [now] pinpoint what triggers symptoms with specific testing, where in the past it was much more generalized," said Fineman. "Now, it's much more specific and accurate and sensitive. ... Treatments are more targeted and allergy shots are much more effective because we know better dosages."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio