Entries in Pollen (9)


Top 5 Summer Allergy Triggers

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Summer is unofficially on, which means three months full of sun, heat and allergy triggers.

The fully bloomed trees and green grass may appear nice, but the pollen they harbor can bring allergy sufferers misery during the spring and summer months. And it's not just that ubiquitous powdery substance that can trigger sniffling, sneezing and itchy eyes during the hotter months. Experts say the following allergy triggers can also be common during the summer:

Mold:  Outdoor mold is the culprit behind many allergic reactions starting in late summer and fall when there is a peak in the amount of some types of mold spores, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.

Stings:  Avoiding a painful encounter is just one reason to steer clear of stinging insects. Insect stings are also a well-known summer allergy trigger that can lead to a severe reaction known as anaphylaxis.

Poison ivy and sunscreen:  While not especially common, poison ivy and sunscreen do pose allergy hazards during the warmer seasons.

Seasonal fruit:  Allergic reactions to food can happen at any time, but for some people, summer fruits and vegetables can be more than just juicy and delicious.

Pollen:  No matter what the season, pollen is in the air, ready to set off allergy attacks.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


High March Temps May Lead to Early Allergies, Bed Bugs

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- While most people enjoyed the unseasonably warm March temperatures, the early-bird spring may contribute to a host of health problems, experts said.

More than 7,500 daily record-high temperatures were set last month, and that included more than 540 places that set all-time highs, according to Chris Dolce, a meteorologist at

"We had a lot of precipitation during the winter and now we have these unseasonably warm temperatures," said Dr. Clifford Bassett, medical director of Allergy and Asthma Care of NY.  "That really primes the pump for what we're seeing now."

Bassett said the phone has been "ringing off the hook" with patients suffering from allergies due to the unseasonably warm temperatures.  He said allergy season started about 14 days early because of the weather and will likely run about a month longer than usual this year.  Trees pollinate earlier after mild winters, and if spring fluctuates between warm and cold spells, there will be intense periods of pollen release during the warm times, and overall plants will grow and release more pollen than usual.

For those who live in bed bug-happy areas like New York, experts warned that the invasive critters may be in full effect a lot earlier this year.

Timothy Wong, technical director of M & M Pest Control in New York City, said business gets "out of control" in the summer because eggs hatch more quickly in warmer weather.  In colder temperatures, eggs take between seven and 14 days to hatch, but in the warmth, they hatch in six to 10 days, Wong said.

Once the temperature hits 65 degrees outdoors, everything changes, Wong said.

Bed bugs might not be the only insect terror to hit an early upswing.  Experts say there may be an early surge of ticks, and in turn, Lyme disease, because of the warm weather.

"Ticks ... are fussy, and high heat, high humidity or cold can dampen, but they are very local in that density of ticks can vary merely hundred yards apart in a given region," Dr. Paul Auwaerter, clinical director of infectious diseases at Johns Hopkins Medical Institute, wrote in an email.

As the weather continues to warm, Auwaerter suggested that people who spend time outdoors should be "on the watch for ticks at this time and do careful inspection, use DEET if in the bushes/woods, wear long pants/shirts."

"Warmer weather certainly means an earlier start to the tick season, and I have had patients bringing in ticks as early as the last week of February this year," Auwaerter said.  "Whether this translates into more cases of tick-borne infections is unclear."

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


Hurricane Irene's Flooding May Bring On Allergy Symptoms

ABC News (CHICAGO) -- Hurricane Irene may have dissipated into the universe, but it continues to wreak havoc on home and health.

Experts warn that the excessive flooding that followed Irene could cause a surge of mold. For those with allergies, this can mean coughing, sneezing and wheezing galore.

"As Northeasterners, we're not really accustomed to hurricanes, and as a result, we're not accustomed to the ramifications," said Dr. Clifford Bassett, medical director of Allergy and Asthma Care of N.Y. "People are coming in for mold-related symptoms and pollen allergies. It's like the perfect storm."

About one-third of all those with allergies are sensitive to mold. Allergic reactions to the fungi include nasal congestion and sneezing. Asthmatics will experience chest congestion, coughing and difficultly in breathing.

"Just because you don't see it or smell it doesn't mean the mold isn't there," said Bassett. "Dust mites love mold and moisture, so you're going to have an indoor allergy and asthma problem if it's not taken care of."

Those who have compromised immune systems from underlying conditions such as autoimmune disorders, HIV and cancer are at greater risk of severe health problems, including pneumonia, triggered by mold.

"Exposure to mold is a real problem, for people with allergies and even in people who don't have allergies," said Dr. Stanley Fineman, president-elect of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. If you can remediate the mold, you can get to your baseline and avoid problems."

Pollen is also seeing a spike and people with allergies are seeing the effects of that too.

"The excess water is feeding the water table and these ragweed plants surrounded by all this water are priming the pump," said Bassett.

After Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, experts coined the term "Katrina cough" after so many people in the area experienced respiratory illness brought on by mold and dust. Symptoms included cough, headache, nasal congestion, pink eye and sore throat.

To avoid such an aftermath while cleaning up Irene's mess, Bassett recommended several devices and techniques, such as using an N95 mask to prevent inhaling the allergens.

Water and bleach is effective in killing mold and reducing in the future, said Bassett. Use caution when removing water-damaged items that can result in the release of microscopic molds into the air of the home. In some cases, a sensitive person may experience immediate respiratory symptoms if mold spores are inhaled.

A dehumidifier and a hygrometer, a device used to measure humidity, will help in gauging and eliminating humidity. Numbers should read "well below 50 percent" on the hygrometer to avoid mold growth.

"You might have to clean several times to make sure you got it all," said Fineman.

"The ones coming in after the storm aren't the ones who practice preventive care," said Bassett. "It's important for people to get tested to see if they have allergies to avoid problems."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Ragweed and Mold Allergies on the Rise, Report Suggests

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(MADISON, N.J.) -- Up to 20 percent of Americans suffer their way through the spring and summer because of ragweed allergies, and new research says the problem could be getting worse.

A report by Quest Diagnostics, a company that provides diagnostic testing services, suggests that allergies are on the rise nationwide, mostly due to an increase in the amount of ragweed and mold in the environment.

The company evaluated 14 million blood test results from about 2 million patients over a four-year period. Each test determined sensitivity to a specific allergen, and the company looked at 11 different allergens. They said people's sensitivity to ragweed increased 15 percent and mold sensitivity grew 12 percent.

"We believe this is the first large national study to show that the growing prevalence of allergies, suggested by other studies, is largely due to increases in environment-based allergens previously associated with climate change," said Dr. Stanley J. Naides, Quest's medical director of immunology.

The study also ranked the 30 worst metropolitan areas for ragweed allergies. They said Phoenix, Las Vegas, Kansas City, Riverside-San Bernardino, Calif., and Dallas topped the list. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Allergy-Sniffing Cars in the Works

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(DETROIT) -- The Ford Motor Co. plans to leverage its existing SYNC infotainment system to monitor pollen alerts and local weather forecasts as part of its health management services geared toward helping the more than 60 million Americans plagued with asthma and seasonal allergies.

Anyone who suffers from asthma or allergies knows it helps to have a clear understanding of environmental factors and potential symptom triggers such as pollen counts in order to avoid an attack. To sniff out the best allergy prevention applications, Ford worked with experts, including medical device manufacturers, health care management service providers, and Web-based medical alert services, to come up with a series of onboard "apps" and phone apps that can be synched up to your ride.

To avert itchy eyes and runny noses, the cars will use a variety of tools, including Bluetooth wireless connections, that will allow the cars to share information with medical devices and perhaps even doctors, much the same as it already allows voice activated cellphone connections. Working off the same GPS technology that gives you driving directions and traffic reports, cloud-based applications -- software you can access without owing a physical copy -- will provide instant access to medical services.

Ford is also partnering with, among others, to SYNC-enable its smartphone Allergy Alert app. This will provide drivers with location-based, day-by-day index levels for pollen, asthma, cold and cough and ultraviolet sensitivity, as well as four-day forecasts.

And this is just the beginning of Ford's health care cars. The company is exploring a variety of apps and services for diabetics, including glucose monitoring and real-time patient coaching, behavioral education and medication adherence support.

Ford, which is apparently the only automaker with such "medical" cars in the works, plans to have the mobile allergy sniffers on the road within two years.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Allergy Season Could Be Worst in Years

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(LOUISVILLE, Ky.) -- Some allergy specialists predict that this allergy season might be worse than previous ones.

Experts say extreme weather is perhaps the biggest culprit.  Record rainfalls in some parts of the country have caused the levels of pollen -- one of the most common allergens -- to skyrocket.

"We are seeing a lot of people having problems with their asthma being triggered by their allergies," said Dr. James Sublett, managing partner of Family Allergy and Asthma in Louisville, Kentucky.  "We've had record amounts of rain and some flooding which can contribute to indoor air problems from mold in addition to the usual springtime allergies from trees and grasses."

Louisville, in fact, is one of the worst cities for allergies according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America's 2011 list of Spring Allergy Capitals.  Louisville ranks second behind Knoxville, Tennessee.  Charlotte, North Carolina, Jackson, Mississippi and Chattanooga, Tennessee round out the five worst.

The rankings are based on the amount of tree pollen in the area, the number of allergy medications used by people living in the region and the number of practicing allergists there are.

"[In addition to tree pollen] the grass pollen is also creeping in there now because peoples lawns are very ready to go.  So you get a double wammy of tree and grass pollen," said Dr. Clifford Bassett, clinical assistant professor of medicine at NYU School of Medicine in New York and medical director of Allergy and Asthma Care of New York.  "If you look at the [pollen counts] in most areas throughout country, they are at record highs."

Bassett also said other factors could be influencing the pollen counts.  An increase in the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere caused by greenhouse gases may be one factor.  Additionally, he said, people more often choose to plant male plants over female plants because females produce a lot of twigs and debris.  Male plants, however, produce pollen.

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


Study: Allergy Season Getting Longer Each Year

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Allergy season is looming, and for the millions of Americans who suffer from the seasonal sneezing and watery eyes, this year may seem worse than years past.

According to a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, spring keeps arriving a little earlier each year as warming temperatures force winter to start later and end earlier.  This climate change, in turn, is allowing more time for plants to produce pollen, causing those with allergies to battle their symptoms longer.

Researchers studied 15 years worth of data on climate and ragweed from various locations in the U.S. and Canada.  They found that the ragweed season had been extended by nearly a month in some areas.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio