It’s almost pollen season; here’s how to protect yourself

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File Photo: Pollen and Allergies

star-sponsored-nativeThe following is sponsored by Intermountain Allergy & Asthma of Draper.

The 2017 pollen season is coming soon! Each year at Intermountain Allergy & Asthma of Draper, we start checking for tree pollen around the end of February. Once pollination starts, Elm is usually the first tree to appear in this area quickly followed by several other tree types. The “worst” trees in Utah are usually Cottonwood and Cedar (the Juniper species). Pollen counts will go up and down dramatically depending on the weather. Once we see significant amounts of pollen, the pollen season will be here to stay and last will until late fall.

In Utah, trees start pollenating in the late winter or early spring and are usually at their worst in mid-April. They are usually done pollenating by mid to late May. Cedar/Juniper trees start pollenating in force in late March and peak in April some time, but the timing varies depending on location. If you’ve traveled to the St. George area early in the spring and felt miserable while you were there, it could have been Cedar which can pollenate in the southern part of the state weeks 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. As far as we know, not many people are sensitive to the ‘cotton’ which is the fertilized seed from female Cottonwood trees. It just so happens that grass often starts pollenating at about the same time 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. Don’t blame the Cottonwood trees!

If your spring allergies aren’t a big problem yet, now is the time to make sure you have medications available. Many of the best medications 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, eye drops and decongestants. Some nasal sprays must be used on a daily basis and should be started early in the allergy season for best effect. Most of these medications are well-tolerated and many are available without a prescription, but some can cause their own special side-effects. Be careful of regular use of some of the over the counter eye drops and nasal sprays as they can worsen symptoms. If you need more than these medicines to control seasonal allergy symptoms or if they do cause unpleasant side effects – it is time for an allergy evaluation.

Dr. Duane Harris, a board certified allergist can usually determine which pollens are causing your problems; give you expert advice about the most effective medicines in your particular case and when to take them. In some people, even multiple medicines are simply not enough, or the side effects of medicine are intolerable. In that case, allergy shots may be 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 count the next day, to see what was high on ‘your bad day’.