Harsh winter delays onset of allergy season

Posted: Mar. 27, 2014 11:17 am Updated: Apr. 17, 2014 3:15 pm

Herald-Whig Staff Writer

The region has waited for relief from the harsh winter, but people with allergies may not be so eager.

Jason Knuffman, an allergist with Quincy Medical Group, said the region is just beginning to see high tree pollen counts. He believes the harsh winter has delayed the allergy season.

Knuffman said the winter weather won't ease pollen counts but it has delayed them. During mild winters, high pollen counts can appear in February if the thaw hits early enough, he said.

"Unfortunately, once the trees and the grasses start to pollinate, they do their thing and we get just about the same thing," Knuffman said.

The Weather Channel reported low tree pollen counts as late as Feb. 26, with minimal tree pollen activity during the first 10 days of March. The high pollen counts began March 11 and have remained high.

Kevin Lollar, an otolaryngologist with Hannibal Regional Medical Group, began seeing the allergy rush in his office late last week just as the pollen counts spiked. He said his patients are just starting to feel the impact of their allergies.

"When things stay frozen for a longer time, you have less time for the tree and plants to release that pollen," Lollar said.

Knuffman said the first line of defense for allergy drainage is often nasal steroids. He noted that this is the first year a nasal steroid, Nasacort AQ, is available for over-the-counter purchase.

Lollar also expects that new pill treatments for grass and ragweed might be available as early as next year.

Lollar said a history of springtime colds could warrant an allergy test. He considers blood and skin tests the easiest ways to determine a condition.

Knuffman said it's not uncommon for patients to confuse allergies for an ongoing, springtime cold. If symptoms seem itchier than a traditional cold, the patient could be suffering from an allergy, he said.

"If you're having a lot of itchiness in the nose and in the eyes, that's more specific for allergies," Knuffman said.