LEWISTOWN - Though spring officially arrived a few weeks ago, the cold weather still remains, delaying allergies that come with blooming flowers, growing grass and leafy trees. However, the chill might be exactly what allergy sufferers need to make it through this year's spring allergy season.
"The weather warmed up quickly last year and everything bloomed at once which made for an intense allergy season," said Dr. Pratibha Vakharia, an allergist and immunologist practicing in Burnham. "This year, we've had a lot of cold days, meaning things will bloom more gradually over time."
Generally, spring allergies start at the end of February and the pollen count continues to increase until it reaches a peak in April, Vakharia said. However, this year's first notably high pollen count occurred during the last weekend in March, meaning this allergy season may be longer, but easier to handle, she said.
According to www.pollen.com, the average pollen count over the past 30 days was 4.85, a low-medium level count, affecting only those extremely sensitive to predominant pollen.
"Everything really depends on the temperature over the next few weeks," Vakharia said. "If it gets warmer, then things might start to bloom. Either way, I don't think it will be as bad as last year."
Vakharia recommends that people with spring allergies watch the weather forecast and begin taking prescriptions or medications before warm weather sets in. She also recommends that people who usually rely on allergy shots schedule a doctor's appointment.
It's also important to monitor the pollen count on a daily basis to known when limiting outdoor activity is necessary, Vakharia said. Daily allergy and pollen forecast are available online at www.pollen.com.
"If a person is repeatedly exposed to allergens, the reaction will continue to get worse with each exposure," Vakharia said. "That's why it's so important that a person know how to handle allergies and limit such contact."
According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, there are a number of day-to-day strategies that can minimize symptoms for people with severe allergies as well as people with mild reactions.
Try to stay indoors when pollen or mold counts are high and, if a person's symptoms are severe, they should wear a pollen mask when long periods of exposure are unavoidable, states the AAAAI website. When returning indoors, immediately take a shower and change clothes.
It's also a good idea to keep windows closed at night and use air conditioning, which can clean, cool and dry the air. It also helps to keep windows closed when driving in the car. Most importantly, people that rely on medication should take it daily as prescribed, according to AAAAI.
"Not every patient has severe enough allergies to need a shot or medication," Vakharia said. "However, if severe symptoms persist, even after taking initial precautions, it's always best to contact your doctor or allergist."