The following is sponsored by Intermountain Allergy.
The spring pollen season is here! Each year, we start checking for pollen late in the winter and this year we saw the first significant amounts of pollen (Elm tree) on the last day of February. Elm is usually the first tree to pollinate in this area, and that was the case this year. Since then, we have at times seen high numbers of Cottonwood and even Cedar pollen, in addition to Elm. In the next few weeks, pollen counts will go up and down dramatically, depending on the weather, but the pollen season in general is here to stay until it snows late in the fall.
In Utah, trees start pollinating in the late winter or early spring and are usually at their worst in mid-April. They are usually done pollinating by mid to late May. The tree that probably causes more problems than any other in Utah is a juniper species – often referred to as a ‘Cedar’ tree. Cedar/Juniper starts pollinating in force in late March and peaks in April some time. If you’ve tried traveling to the St George area earlier in the year, and felt just miserable while you were there, it could have been Cedar which can pollinate in the southern part of the state a month earlier than in the Salt Lake area.
One common tree allergy ‘myth’ is that those folks who have nose and eye symptoms when the ‘cotton’ flies later in the spring, are allergic to Cottonwood trees. Not necessarily true. Actually, few people are sensitive to the ‘cotton’ which is the fertilized seed from female Cottonwood trees. It just so happens that grass often starts pollinating at about the same that the ‘cotton’ falls, and most people who have symptoms at that time are actually reacting to the grass pollen that they can’t see. The Cottonwood trees get the blame.
If you have spring allergies, even if they aren’t a big problem yet, now is the time to make sure you have medications available. Many of the best meds take a while to really work – don’t wait until you are suffering to start them!
Medicines that can help with seasonal allergies include antihistamines; nasal sprays — that must be used daily for good effect; eye drops — be careful of regular use of some over the counter eye drops, they can worsen some symptoms; and decongestants. Most of these medications are well-tolerated and are available without a prescription, but some can cause their own special side-effects. If you need more than these medicines to control seasonal allergy symptoms, or if they do cause side-effects in you – it may be time for an allergy evaluation.
A board certified allergist can usually determine which pollens are causing your problems, and can give expert advice about the most effective medicines in your particular case. In some people, even multiple medicines are simply not enough, and allergy ‘desensitization’ shots are needed. Allergy shots are used to decrease a patient’s response to the pollens that are causing the allergies. Allergy shots can ‘teach’ the immune system to ignore the things that you are sensitive to. For most patients, desensitization shots are at least as effective as medications, if not much better.
As this year’s pollen season progresses, check for the current pollen count – on intermountainallergy.com. We update the count 5 days a week. If you are particularly miserable on a given day, check the pollen the next day, to see what was high on ‘your bad day’.