By Katina Caraganis
LEOMINSTER -- You survived the polar vortex in January. Now you might be battling polar pollen.
Local doctors are cautioning people with allergies that they may be experiencing symptoms much earlier than expected this year because of the long, hard and wet winter.
Dr. Jordan Scott, an allergist with Northeast Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, said people are experiencing allergy symptoms as much as three weeks early, because of what's being called "polar pollen syndrome."
The heavy precipitation helped create healthy roots for pollinating plants. Because of the long soaking time the roots had, the warmer weather is expected to bring with it a heavy pollen season, Scott said.
Dr. David Reister, also an allergist with Northeast Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, agreed with his colleague, saying that pollen, especially maple pollen, is out in full force.
"With the cold winter and the melting snow, the tree pollen is out in full force. That actually increases some of the pollen counts," he said. "There was a lot of snow on the ground, so the trees and roots had a good winter. There's been plenty of water for them. It's not like the trees had a tough time this winter with a lack of water."
He said if it had been a dry winter, trees would not be pollinating as early.
"They have a good root system. With a dry winter, it would be tougher. A couple of years ago, we had a snowstorm in April.
The best thing a person can do is get tested for allergies so they know how to best treat them, he said.
"Diagnosis is important. You should know if it is indoor stuff or outdoor stuff. Once you know what you're allergic to, you'll know if you're an early spring allergy person or a late spring allergy person," he said.
Once you know what you are allergic to -- such as maple pollen or mold, which comes in early spring, or grass pollen, which hits in June or July -- you know when to begin expecting symptoms and the best course of action to deal them, he said.
"April is spring season here. Pollen can flow for miles and miles and miles. If it's warmer down South, pollen can blow for hundreds of miles. In April, you kind of start seeing the pollen counts go up, but as April continues, those levels go up and up."
Scott said there are precautions people can take to decrease symptoms, including keeping windows closed at night, showering before bed, and not exercising outdoors either early in the morning or late evening.
There are nonprescription options available to patients, and a doctor can point patients in the right direction to which treatment is best for their symptoms.
"Some of these products can be counter-productive in helping relieve long-term allergy related issues," he said.
Brandon Linatsas, a chiropractor with Nashua Family Chiropractic, said oftentimes seeing a chiropractor can actually help relieve allergy symptoms.
"Allergies are an unnatural reaction to normal things in the environment," he said. "People who get help here are people who have back pain and they find out afterward it helps with their allergies.
He said when a person's body comes into contact with whatever their allergic trigger is, whether it be pollen, ragweed, pet dander, or dust mites, it makes chemicals called histamines.
Histamines cause the tissue in a person's nose to swell, his nose and eyes to run, and his eyes to itch, he said.
Linatsas said he also adjusts sinus bones where inflammation occurs and fluid builds up, usually in the face and parts of a person's neck, especially while having a sinus infection.
"All that fluid that accumulates has to go somewhere. By helping to adjust those facial and neck muscles, it helps patients," he said. "If there's any blockage, it blocks up into your face. Adjusting the bones help with draining everything."
Taking over-the-counter antihistamines can help reduce or block whatever is causing the allergic reaction.
Antihistamines relieve symptoms of different kinds of allergies, including seasonal allergies (hay fever), indoor allergies and food allergies, he said. However, he said, they don't relieve every symptom, such as nasal congestion.
Reister said taking oral steroids can help prevent a lot of symptoms, but a person should be monitored by a doctor.
"With all of the medications that are out there, you want to see an allergy specialist who can monitor what you're on so you aren't getting any side effects," he said.
"Testing allows us to determine what and when so we know how to treat you," he said. "Testing confirms a diagnosis so then you can really tailor what you need to do, whether it's a medicine or sprays or pills or shots."
Improperly treating allergies can cause mental absenteeism, a phenomenon in which someone is physically at work or school but is mentally not there.
"You're mentally absent because you either aren't sleeping at night or you've taken something over-the-counter to help. People who have bad allergies and don't get treatment, they get to work and they are nonfunctional," he said. "They're physically there but they aren't functional."
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