Apr. 16, 1998 Experts from National Jewish Medical and Research Center in Denver Answer Common Health Questions
Q: What will El Nino do to my allergies this year?
A: Probably make them worse. El Nino has wreaked havoc throughout the United States causing many weather-related problems such as heavy rain, tornadoes and an unseasonably mild winter in areas of the country used to extremely cold weather. People with allergies will have no better luck.
Areas of the country that experienced mild winters may already be feeling the results in an early and more intense allergy season.
Harsh winter temperatures usually cause plants to lie dormant until warmer weather. But the warmer winter caused by El Nino has trees, grasses and flowers blooming and spreading pollen earlier this year. Elm trees, which cause allergies for many, have already started pollinating in areas throughout the United States, two-three weeks earlier than usual. Allergy-causing cedar and cottonwood trees also have started pollinating earlier than usual and with higher pollen counts.
What grass and weed pollens do, which normally pollinate later in the spring and summer, will depend on what the weather does over the next few months.
Other parts of the country that experienced wetter than usual winters may see an increase in mold, as well. Mold thrives in warm, dark and/or moist climates. It causes allergy symptoms such as itchy eyes, runny nose and skin rash.
Combining all these elements, it appears as if this may be one of the longest and most severe allergy seasons in a long time for the 35 million children and adults in the United States with allergies.
There are, however, a few things you can do to get through this rough allergy season.
· If you have air conditioning, use it. This helps filter allergens;
· Try to stay indoors during times that you notice your allergy symptoms are particularly severe;
· When you leave the house, try to do so only in the morning or late in the evening when pollen counts are at their lowest;
· Talk to your physician about adjusting doses of allergy medications; and
· Avoid other irritants such as cigarette smoke, humidity, strong perfumes or other odors.
For more information on combating allergies, call LUNG LINE, (800)222-LUNG.
· Richard Weber, M.D., senior staff physician, National Jewish Medical and Research Center in Denver
EDITOR'S NOTE: A patient should consult his or her personal physician before changing or considering any medical treatments.
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