Get ready for 'rough' pollen season this year, allergist warns

"One word: Rough."

That's how allergist and immunologist Dr. Khaled Girgis of HCA Midwest Health describes the allergy season we’re in for this spring.

Allergies are the gift that keeps on giving. Those who suffer know all too well its impact on sleep, daytime alertness and overall function. Now with rising temperatures and increased pollen in the air, the arrival of spring allergy season is here, and doctors warn we're in for a bumpy ride.

After a mild winter season with less precipitation in most areas across the U.S., Girgis said pollen counts could skyrocket as it starts to warm up – as they did in key regions just a couple of weeks ago. 

"If spring turns out to be rainy, mold counts will go up," he said.

Girgis said there are three pollination seasons: spring, late May with grass, and mid-August when weed season kicks in. 

"Hopefully, a hard frost comes during the first couple of weeks in October for some areas, and in November for the Midwest, to quiet things down."

So for all of you living in Wichita, Kansas, – which recently topped the list of allergy cities based on its high pollen count and lack of board-certified allergists – get ready for a possibly miserable spring allergy season. 

"Florida had the most cities in the top 20, with seven," Girgis said. "Sixth-place Sarasota ranked highest in the state."



Rising temperatures and increased pollen in the air signals the arrival of spring allergy season. (Creative Touch Imaging Ltd./NurPhoto / Getty Images)

As pollen counts spike, Girgis said he often sees spikes in emergency room visits for asthma. 

"In fact, approximately 3,600 people per year die from asthma, so it is important to address and manage asthma and allergy triggers where you live," he said.

Suffering from spring allergy symptoms? Here's what doctors recommend

Are you suffering from the itchy eyes, congestion and fatigue that seasonal pollen can bring?

Girgis reminded his patients that they don't have to put up with seasonal allergy symptoms. There are medications and good habits that can help you enjoy your time outdoors.

"But some people may not know that they have allergies triggered by things like pollen — and what type of pollen they’re allergic to and when those pollens tend to spread," he said.

Girgis said it’s important to see an allergist who can identify exactly what’s going on.

"If symptoms go untreated, you not only feel miserable, but it can also make it harder to treat," he said.

Once allergies are diagnosed, Girgis said you can talk about avoidance measures with your allergist — ways to reduce your exposure to have fewer symptoms and decrease medicine.


Top tips to combat allergy symptoms

Consider wearing sunglasses, a hat and a mask outside. 

"If you're going to be at your child's baseball game, biking, walking or out gardening, for example, a high-filtration mask can help manage your symptoms," Girgis said.

Girgis advised taking a shower when you get home after being outdoors because pollen can gather on your skin and hair. 

You should also keep the windows at home and in your car closed and use a HEPA air purifier in your home — especially the bedroom.

Most importantly, Girgis said, follow your doctor’s treatment plan.

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