SIKESTON -- An unusually warm spring with record setting high temperatures has prompted plants to bloom early, filling the skies with pollen and triggering symptoms for allergy sufferers.
Dr. Michael Critchlow of Allergy and Asthma Clinic at Ferguson Medical Group in Sikeston said it's really hard to assess whether allergies are worse this year or not.
"It's worse in the sense people are suffering from allergies earlier than usual," said Critchlow, who is board certified in allergy/immunology and internal medicine.
According to the local and national allergy forecast website, Pollen.com, pollen levels in Sikeston are forecast at 10.7 Saturday, 11. 5 Sunday and 11.4 Monday with predominant pollen being from juniper, maple and elm trees.
Levels between 9.7 and 12.0 tend to affect most individuals who suffer from the pollen types of the season. Symptoms may become more severe during days with high pollen levels, according to pollen.com.
"We start to see people with tree pollen allergies in late February, and that's common," Critchlow said, adding maple and cedar trees are among the earlier pollinators in this region.
Critchlow said he also thinks due to the earlier than usual warm weather, it's a very early grass pollen season as well.
"Usually, the worst pollen season -- in past years -- is in May. At that time, people are bothered by both tree and grass pollens -- and if they're allergic to both -- have a really hard time," Critchlow said.
According to the National Institute of Health, three main issues have caused an earlier allergy season: warm winter, warm spring and dry weather.
Common allergy symptoms include itching in the nose, throat, eyes; sneezing; stuffy nose; runny nose; tearing eyes; and dark circles under the eyes, according to the American Academy of Asthma Allergy and Immunology.
"What we advise in most people is to take antihistamines on their own if the problem is not too severe," Critchlow said. "The key is to take them before going outside and give them a chance to be in the blood stream."
Antihistamines are used as a better preventative medicine than to treat symptoms once symptoms have already occurred, the allergist said. He noted almost all of the antihistamines are over-the-counter, and all are available as generics.
"Expert panels recommend nasal steroids as best the treatment for allergies," Critchlow said.
However, there are a number of things allergy sufferers can do on their own to alleviate symptoms, he said.
"If kids or adults play or work outside, it's a good idea to shower immediately when they come indoors and put their clothes in a hamper or washing machine. They should shampoo their hair, too, because if they continue to wear those clothes they wore outside, they may actually still be exposed when inside," Critchlow said.
Eye drops are also over the counter and often a treatment for eyes.
Critchlow also suggested closing the home and car windows and run air conditioning instead.
For severe cases, allergy shots, or immunotherapy, from professionals are also really helpful in providing relief to patients, Critchlow said.
"Most of people who undergo that are successful in reducing symptoms so they can enjoy life better," he said.
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