How this pollen season is affecting allergy sufferers: ‘It’s terrible out there’

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RICHMOND, Va. -- Richmonder Randi Lee dreads pollen season, but this year her symptoms have been much worse.

"I'm still doing my allergy shots like I'm supposed to," Lee said. "I've been at maintenance where maybe I can do once a month, but with this season being so bad, I'm making sure I get one shot a week."

Dr. William T. Hark, a physician with Richmond Allergy and Asthma Specialists, says that pollen season is in full swing. Hark is seeing patients with classic allergy symptoms, including some patients who usually aren't bothered by pollen.

Dr. William T. Hark

"It's terrible out there," Harks said. "We're seeing a lot of patients with sneezing, itchy watery and puffy eyes, runny nose and stuffy nose. A lot of people with fatigue and headaches."

While it's the blooming flowers that people tend to associate with pollen allergies, Hark says that tree pollen is causing the biggest problems for allergy sufferers. Tree pollens that triggers allergies tend to be very fine and powdery. Inhaling even small amounts can trigger allergy symptoms.

The windy, dry condition aren't helping matters.

"I'm getting a lot of itching in my throat, itching in my ears and my nasal passages are swollen," Randi Lee said.

Doctors are treating symptoms with everything from allergy shots and prescription medication, to over-the-counter antihistamines or corticosteroids like Allegra, ZYRTEC and Flonase.

But Hark says there are things allergy sufferers can do to reduce their exposure to allergens.

"For example, you can keep your windows closed and the air conditioning on. Don't hang laundry out to dry. If you've been outside a lot, take a bath or shower before you go to bed, so you can wash off the mold or pollen," Hark explained.

 

Hark also recommends wearing a mask while doing yard work.

While doctors expect the pollen to subside in the coming weeks, this is just the start of allergy season.

While the ragweed pollen season usually ends by mid-November, if you react to fungi and molds, you probably face your worst symptoms in late summer or early fall.

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