Attention, allergies sufferers: Pollen has arrived
March 19th, 2012
02:19 PM ET

Attention, allergies sufferers: Pollen has arrived

While some of you are probably out playing sports and smelling flowers, the rest of us are indoors with clogged noses, struggling to keep our burning eyes open.

The nice weather means spring allergies have kicked in for millions of Americans, and in the Southeast, the pollen assault is brutal. On Monday, Atlanta broke a 13-year pollen count record, with a 8,164 particles of pollen per cubic meter of air observed by the Atlanta Allergy and Asthma Clinic.

The previous record was 6,013 particles, detected on April 12, 1999.

The website Pollen.com, which tracks pollen nationwide, shows high pollen counts from Virginia to Florida, extending westward to Arkansas and parts of Texas. There are also pockets of high pollen activity in Colorado, New Mexico, Kansas, Oklahoma, Nevada, California and Arizona.

More than 60 million Americans suffer from allergic rhinitis, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. That means when they inhale something they are allergic to, they suffer symptoms in the nose and eyes. When the trigger of the reaction is pollen, the person is said to have "hay fever."

Besides itchy eyes, runny nose and clogged sinuses, doctors say allergies can even affect your mood. The connection isn't entirely understood - it could be that nasal congestion and medication-induced drowsiness lead people to feel down, but one study suggests that the allergic reaction itself may lower mood.

Allergy season has started earlier this year, experts say. Since there's been a mild winter, plants and trees are releasing pollen much sooner than normal, says CNN meteorologist Sean Morris. Daffodils and tulips are out ahead of schedule, and oak, mulberry, sycamore, sweet gum and birch trees are all blooming.

But if you're wondering what's covering your car, it's pine pollen, which usually doesn't come out until mid-to-late April.

"Amazingly enough, most people are not allergic to the stuff you can see," Morris said.

The microscopic particles, smaller than a human hair's width, cause the most misery, says Dr. Stanley Fineman, allergy at the Atlanta Allergy and Asthma Clinic and president of the American College of Asthma, Allergy and Immunology.

"We’re seeing it in the patients who are having much more trouble this year than they’ve had in the past, because of the very high [pollen] counts and the prolonged season," Fineman says.

And while the season began earlier than normal, that doesn't mean it will end sooner, Fineman said.

Patients are also suffering in Knoxville, Tennessee, which was rated the worst city for allergies in the United States by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America in 2010 and 2011.

Even short periods of exposure to pollen hurt allergy patients, says Dr. Bob Overholt, a Knoxville-based allergist at the Allergy, Asthma & Sinus Center. Each time you go outside, you're priming your immune system to have an even worse reaction later.

There aren't any new treatments approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for allergies this year. You've got three options for over-the-counter oral antihistamines: Allegra (Fexofenadine), Claritin (Loratadine) and Zyrtec (Cetirizine) - but many patients need a prescription nasal spray in addition to one of those in order to find relief.

Allergists can prescribe topical nasal antihistamines and steroidal sprays. Antihistamine eye drops are also available over-the-counter and by prescription.

And the only long term option for allergy sufferers is to undergo immune therapy, in the form of shots, over a period of three to five years. An allergy test determines what you are allergic to, and then you get tiny doses of that allergen injected so that you become desensitized. A method of accomplishing this using droplets under the tongue has shown promise in studies, but is not FDA-approved.

Bottom line: If you're suffering this spring, allergists can help.

soundoff (37 Responses)
  1. terry

    Undergo allergy therapy for THREE TO FIVE YEARS !!!! Man, there is a BIG help and BIG bucks for the medical folks again.

    March 19, 2012 at 15:44 | Report abuse | Reply
    • drp146

      The pharmaceutical companies don't want to cure anything. They just want to treat your symptoms so you will have to use their medication daily, and they hope you will have to use it for the rest of your life.

      March 22, 2012 at 11:12 | Report abuse |
  2. melvinslizard

    Welcome to my hell

    March 19, 2012 at 15:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. DSHornet

    I was born and raised in the South and have suffered from hay fever most of my life. When I was little, my mother got me to sleep on my stomach just so I could get through the night. There are several things I do:

    When I shower I bend over and, using my hands and arms, funnel water into my nose. If I sneeze, and I know this is gross, it does a great job of cleaning things out. For the sake of thoroughness, I sometimes do it twice.

    I use diphenhydramine at night as an effective antihistamine and a sleep aid. I use cetirizine during the day.

    My Dr. gave me a prescription for a steroid nasal spray. I use it regularly, especially in pollen season.

    I buy local honey and use it to sweeten most of what I want to sweeten, including coffee. Local honey has small amounts of pollen in it that are from plants in my area which are responsible for the problem. The pollen in the honey serves as a desensitizer. I have also taken bee pollen capsules in the past for the same reason.

    March 19, 2012 at 18:59 | Report abuse | Reply
    • jane

      Since you live in the SOuth you should be aware of a rare, but possible deadly issue of using tap water to clean out your sinuses. Amembas can live in warm lake water in the south and survive water purification. When put in the nasal cavity it can cause the amemba to eat your brain. Crazy sounding, I know. I had always used tap water as well until last year.

      March 19, 2012 at 23:41 | Report abuse |
    • RandomOne

      DSHornet – have you noticed any improvement after taking the bee pollen capsules or honey? I'm curious if these things really make a difference.

      March 21, 2012 at 09:20 | Report abuse |
    • Annia

      Cetirizene is not working for me. I had a hard time sleeping this past Monday night. The throath and the ears were hurting so bad, got worse when I was trying to swallow my own saliva. Last night I took Chlorate instead & it helped me to get SOME sleep, because I had to get up ever so often to spit out the nasty stuff. On the bright side, it's been raining here in Little Rock for the past few days, and the rain washes away the pollen, so that helps a great deal. Furthermore, GOD is giving us free car wash along with it, so there some good coming out of this after all.

      March 21, 2012 at 15:34 | Report abuse |
    • ChrisW

      Get a netti pot! Works wonders. Cleans out your nasal passages, if you do it after going outside you won't continue to have the crud inside all day and all night.

      March 21, 2012 at 17:25 | Report abuse |
    • Terry

      Thanks for the heads up about the ameba/amoeba. I thought it was a joke until I looked it up on WebMD. See link

      March 23, 2012 at 11:20 | Report abuse |
  4. Dr Arthur Lubitz

    Seasonal Allergy Season (hay fever) is beginning earlier, lasting longer and symptoms are becoming more severe. But there is help available. Immunology – although not the answer for everyone – but for most it can reduce your allergy symptoms by 90%.

    March 19, 2012 at 20:53 | Report abuse | Reply
    • MidwestGirl

      I'm getting new allergy testing tomorrow morning so that I can start allergy drops (can't take the shots because I'm on a beta blocker). I have felt so much worse this year than in the past...really hoping the drops help!

      March 21, 2012 at 09:30 | Report abuse |
  5. roberto

    Well..they got to come up with something new ..and effective ...this allergies are killing me ...and am sure that I am speaking for a lot of people on the same situation ...thanx

    March 19, 2012 at 21:13 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Ashley

      Hello whats your last name?

      April 3, 2012 at 11:23 | Report abuse |
  6. buddahbabe

    I'm in my mid-60's and encountering my first horrible bout with pollen allergies. Best relief so far is right up DSHornet's alley...it's called a Neti Pot – also can be found in a spray bottle – and it rinses the pollen OUT of the nasal membranes. SO MUCH better (at least for me) than systemic drugs; Clariton and Nasicort!!

    March 19, 2012 at 21:34 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Steve

      Neti Pot users. Make sure you BOIL TAP WATER before using it in neti pot. Important to kill any amoebas in the water that are not killed by normal industrial purification process. I echo the above posters comment.

      March 21, 2012 at 15:06 | Report abuse |
  7. RaoHealthcare

    I think this the best health care tips to help for stop pollen hurt allergy patients http://familyhealthcareus.com/

    March 19, 2012 at 22:24 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Ashley

      Hello I know this place:0

      April 3, 2012 at 11:24 | Report abuse |
    • Ashley

      Sorry I was talking about i know this place i didnt mean to post a staute

      April 3, 2012 at 11:25 | Report abuse |
  8. Name*Lorraine

    Yea I think it will be very extreme, like everything else in the last couple years;( crazy weather 80 in March ? 100 deg. April , I live in NJ , bad already!!! Good Luck;(

    March 19, 2012 at 23:34 | Report abuse | Reply


    March 20, 2012 at 03:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. RandiRN

    I underwent allergy shots for years. I was doing okay until 1 year I had a severe allergic reaction. The allergist did another series of scratch tests. The result was that while the allergens I received shots for I was no longer allergic to, my allergies had mutated and I was now allergic to a different groups of pollens. I did not undergo an second round of shots. I just deal with my allergies. I was not going to spend all the money again.

    March 20, 2012 at 07:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. jim

    The best remedy for folks in the South is to shower when you get inside, don't open your windows, and have a few belts of vodka to dry out the nasal passages before bed.
    Vodka will do less damage to your liver than all those crap over the counter medications, and it's cheaper than paying some blood-sucking doctor.
    Vodka will also make you smarter!

    March 20, 2012 at 10:18 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Ashley

      Is Jimmy your real name? People call you Jim for short?

      April 3, 2012 at 11:24 | Report abuse |
    • Betty

      I would recommend Nasonex or Beconase AQ. You will need a prspircetion. Both are steroidal nasal sprays. It is recommended that you start the medication nearly a week before exposure, because the nasal spray can take up to five days to start working. In my experience, it works better than any antihistamines. Allergy shots can take up to five years to get the maximum benefits.

      May 24, 2012 at 05:13 | Report abuse |
  12. Janet Scyrkels

    going into my doctor's office with a Kotex under my nose, I declared that i was going to move to the dry southern states. I was in Oklahoma at the time. With kindness and compassion the doctor, who was an alergy sufferer too, assured me that i would be fine for maybe 5 years, but then i would contact all the allergies of that particular part of the country....alas, as i sneeze, cough, blot my eyes, put menthol creams under my nose and down my neck, fill up trash cans with napkins and live with an upset stomach from all the drainage, i am still in Oklahoma and still cussing this horrible reaction to the natural wonders of our world....achoo, achoo....

    March 20, 2012 at 12:28 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Ashley

      People with allergy it must suck to be them i would hate to have that

      April 3, 2012 at 11:17 | Report abuse |
    • Joel

      I actually have to rqsueet the same as the first & fifth post. A great cheese or mac & cheese, and granola bars (Chewy ones) would be fantastic. I have attempted granola bars about 20 times (really) and all have been blah and unsuccessful. Been a few ok' ones. And the cheese for mac & cheese is really hard to find something that actually still tastes good, tried about 8-10 of these. FYI after getting your cookout on baked treats I have come to one conclusion. That you are a dairy free goddess and I love you ! I have never had as as many things turn out SO good as I have with your book. My 3 year old daughter with dairy & nut allergy thanks you the most though. You've made a big difference in her life. What your doing to raise awareness and share your recipes counts and means alot. thank you.

      August 1, 2012 at 18:01 | Report abuse |
  13. fFish

    For me it is the insidious cedar pollen in drought stricken west texas and New Mexico. It is never-ending and has caused 6 sinus/ear infections in 2011 for me till I bought several envirocaire air purifiers I call Drought Busters!!!

    March 20, 2012 at 13:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Burbank

    In Northern California Bay area the pine pollen season is February. Everything gets coated yellow.

    March 21, 2012 at 15:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Ashley

    Well first i don't know who you even are so yea this irrelevant. And why do you need people to email you this type of stuff anyway like this is some now normal. Well I'm bored right now so yea i think that I'm going to leave now so kay bye:)

    April 3, 2012 at 11:21 | Report abuse | Reply
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    April 10, 2012 at 23:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Adele Greenburg

    Is it better for people who tend to have sinus infections and allergies to sleep with the windows closed at night?

    May 9, 2012 at 19:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Miss Okitsu

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    Look at our new webpage too

    November 18, 2012 at 04:23 | Report abuse | Reply
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