Local people and plants have, for the most part, enjoyed this spring’s unseasonably warm temperatures. But allergy sufferers? Not so much.
Early spring weather, which has averaged three to four degrees above normal since February, has allergy season running slightly ahead of schedule, said Alan Jones, an ear, nose, throat (ENT) and allergy specialist with the Deseret Peak ENT and Allergy Center.
The warm weather has inspired many trees to unfurl their leaves and blossoms early this year, which has in turn released large quantities of pollen into the air, Jones said.
For residents who typically experience spring allergies — a sign they react adversely to tree pollen — this payload of pollen may have come as an unwelcome surprise.
Over-the-counter antihistamines, which are among the most effective non-prescription remedies for allergies, typically need to be taken in advance of allergy symptoms in order to be fully effective, said Jones.
For those who are suffering from early allergies, Jones said the first step to managing symptoms is to reduce exposure to the allergen. Because trees release most of their pollen at night, Jones said residents could prevent some of their symptoms by keeping their home’s windows closed while they sleep. Showering before bed can also remove pollen from hair that would otherwise end up on the pillowcase, he said.
While it can be difficult to distinguish between a late-season cold and early allergies, Jones said some key allergy symptoms include itchy eyes, excessive sneezing, and an itchy nose or throat.
Children who are experiencing allergies may rub their nose or click their tongue against the roof of their mouths, he said.
Jones said he himself hasn’t seen an influx of allergy patients just yet, but expects that it will come later. Most people will put off seeing a doctor about their allergies until their own remedies have failed, leaving them miserable for several weeks, he said. He expected the area’s primary care doctors would begin to see patients for allergy-related concerns sometime next week.
Where the allergy season goes from here is uncertain, Jones said. If the weather remains warm and dry, Tooele County could be in for an early, but short, allergy season. But a cool, rainy spring could extend allergy season for several months.
Tree pollen does tend to be one of the few common allergens that is heavily impacted by the weather, Jones said. Other common outdoor allergens, including grass and weed pollens, tend to be fairly consistent. Grass pollen will pick up around Memorial Day weekend, and weed pollens will start to trigger allergies in late July.
Jones said allergy sufferers should watch pollen forecasts from sites such as pollen.com to determine when their specific allergy will peak. Sensitive persons should begin to take antihistamines several days in advance of high pollen counts to prevent symptoms.
According to Tooele’s pollen forecast, tree pollens are expected to continue to become more prevalent through the rest of the week.