So far, 2010 has been a year of extremes, when it comes to weather. The eastern U.S. got socked with not just one, but two or three major snowstorms this winter. But they also got hit with really hot temperatures in early April!
The southern U.S. also got hit with colder temps, snow and tons of rain. These weather extremes were repeated just about everywhere in the United States and other parts of the world too.
It seems that these early year weather extremes have translated to super high pollen counts in many areas, unfortunately. I know that where I have lived for the past five years, which is in the mountain west, my spring allergies have never been too severe, in contrast to what I experienced on the east coast over 30 years. So I assume the pollen counts have not been overly high.
But this year, my allergy symptoms have been awful, with nose, eye and respiratory symptoms galore, despite antihistamine medicine. I checked the pollen count at Pollen.com early this week and was shocked to see that our pollen count in Boise was in the red zone, at the High level. Yuck! Since then, with rain and cooler temperatures, we've come down to the Medium High pollen count level. I sure wish I still lived in Missoula, Montana though... their pollen count is in the green zone at the low level!
Why Allergies Are So Bad This Year
Wondering why this year's bad weather has spawned such an awful spring allergy season?
You might think all that cold weather would have delayed tree pollen release this spring, but the unseasonably warm weather actually speeded things up. It also stimulated an early release of grass pollen, which typically is the second wave of pollen in late spring. So instead of dealing with peaks in each type of pollen separately, we're getting a double dose all at once.
Add to that the extra wet winter and spring and we have record mold counts to deal with too. Talk about your worst allergy nightmare!
Spring Allergy Capitals
Spring allergies are basically horrible everywhere this year, but the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America has named the following cities as the "allergy capitals" of the season, based on pollen counts, medication use, air quality, smoke-free laws and access to physicians.
These so-called allergy capitals are deemed the most challenging places to live in the U.S. if you have allergies. This spring's top 10 list is as follows:
1. Richmond, VA
2. St. Louis, MO
3. Chattanooga, TN
4. Knoxville, TN
5. Milwaukee, WI
6. Memphis, TN
7. Tulsa, OK
8. Philadelphia, PA
9. Augusta, GA
10. Atlanta, GA
Whoa, Tennessee! Three Tennessee cities are in the top 10, and twoGeorgia cities, with 60 percent of the top 10 being in the southern U.S. If you don't already live there, stay away from those areas for the next few months, unless you're prepared to deal with severe allergy symptoms.
What You Can Do
This is the time to start taking your allergies seriously. Although you probably won't be able to get them under complete control until pollen counts begin to come down, you can at least reduce the severity of your symptoms.
First off, talk with your doctor about allergy medicines. There are a number of options available over the counter (OTC), including pills, nasal sprays and eye drops. Stay with antihistamine preparations, rather than decongestants, as decongestants cannot be safely used over the long haul that will be our spring allergy season this year.
If you can't get relief or control with OTC medicines, then there are many prescription options, which your doctor can advise you on.
Your second defense is to reduce your exposure to pollen and mold as much as possible. Stay indoors when pollen counts are highest, usually between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m. and on windy, warm days. Keep your house and car windows closed and use the air conditioner if it gets too hot.
If you do go outside, bathe frequently to wash the pollen off your hair and skin and also wash your clothes frequently. Never hang laundry outside to dry, as it will pick up pollen from the "fresh" air.
Finally, you might try saline nasal rinsing to rinse the pollen out of your nasal passages with a natural solution. Don't overdo it, but do feel free to use it when symptoms are at their worst.
Spring allergy season this year is definitely going to continue to be brutal, but we CAN wrest control from this beast!