Warm Winter Adds to Allergy Woes

North Carolina’s often humid climate is not a favorite for allergy sufferers in any year. But even with recent cold snaps, the unusually mild winter the state is experiencing this year promises to make 2012 an allergy season to remember for all the wrong reasons. It turns out the stuffy noses, sneezing, coughing that many people have been mistaking for a cold are really allergy symptoms….arriving 4-6 weeks early.

Trees and flowers are blooming earlier. In addition, dead plant material is decaying faster than usual (mold) which is adding to the problem. And because it has been a fairly dry winter, some fall allergens such as ragweed may still be blowing around. The bad news for allergy sufferers is that most allergy specialists say it appears this is just the start of what will be one long spring allergy season.

Abby Reynolds, a Kerr Drug pharmacist and Manager of Clinical Programs for Kerr Drug, offers these tips to help allergy sufferers enjoy the mild temperatures despite the itchy nose and eyes.

• Ask your pharmacist about over-the-counter antihistamines such as Zyrtec, Allegra and Claritin. These medicines will work well with patients with mild allergies.
• Use a saline nasal spray if you’re looking for a quick fix to temporarily stop the sneezing without any kind of oral medication. It will wash away all the dust and allergens and can be used several times a day without any problem.
• If you spend a lot of time outside, especially if you are working in the yard, pollen can end up on your skin and in your hair. Take a shower after you come inside to rinse away the pollen.
• Take off your shoes when you come in the house to avoid tracking pollen into every room. The same goes for your clothes. These steps aren’t necessary for everyone, but if seasonal allergies are a real problem, they will help keep the pollen outside.
• Keep the window closed. While it is nice to open the windows and let a warm spring breeze into the house, allowing the breeze to blow through invites pollen inside. It’s better to use the air conditioner during the height of seasonal allergy season.
• Watch the perfume and cologne. Strong perfumes can irritate the nasal airways and lungs and make you cough.
As you are sniffing and sneezing earlier than usual, you can blame La Nina, which is a cooling of the waters off the coast of South America, for this unseasonably warm weather. Ironically, it’s the same weather pattern that brought last year’s bitterly cold winter and snow. The difference this year is something called the arctic oscillation, which can either be positive or negative. Last year it was negative; this year it’s positive — and that’s what’s making all the difference.