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'Tis the season to be sneezin'

BY ALEKSANDRA VUJICIC | APRIL 09, 2014 5:00 AM

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Warm weather is here, and so are the sneezes, the congestion, and the itchy eyes.

Iowa is recovering from a long, severe winter, and John Kammermeyer, an allergist at the Iowa City Allergy and Asthma Clinic, said when warm weather hits suddenly, the pollen tends to shoot out because early blooming trees need to get rid of a certain amount of pollen.

“Odds favor that there’s going to be some high peaks of pollen over the next weeks,” Kammermeyer said. “Early tree season is delayed a couple of weeks now; when it gets going here, it’s going to make up for lost time and spew out more pollen than usual.”

More pollen in the air means more allergies.

Marta Little, who specializes in allergy and immunology at Town Square Allergy and Asthma in Coralville, said she doesn’t believe the severity will change much from previous years but spring pollens, such as trees and grasses, may be delayed in onset by roughly two weeks due to the colder temperatures that have lingered into April.

She said the same delayed effect might be seen with mold and mildew allergens.

“Mold spores tend to be in the outside air as soon as the temperatures are above freezing, and again, that has happened a little bit later than it has in our recent winters that started to warm up in March,” Little said.

UI sophomore Libby Hewitt said she noticed her allergies coming back early last week with itchy, watery eyes, sneezing, and congestion.

“I did notice this spring that they came back with a bit more intensity than past years,” she said. “Usually, it is more of a gradual thing when I start becoming bothered by them, but this year they were more intense.”

Students who have never experienced allergy symptoms aren’t immune for life. Kammermeyer said that onset of allergies is most common during childhood from age 5 to 10 and also from ages 18 to 23.

“I see many students at the university who never had trouble as a kid, but here they are at college saying ‘What in the world is happening?’” Kammermeyer said.

For students that may be experiencing symptoms similar to those of Hewitt, Kammermeyer said there are three ways of helping reduce them: avoidance, medication, or allergy shots.

Little and Kammermeyer said they both recommend taking a visit to an allergist if symptoms are too severe.  One treatment option is to receive an allergy shot, but Kammermeyer warns that this is not an immediate relief form of therapy.

“If somebody comes in here during the spring to see me, there’s no point in starting the allergy-shot therapy immediately because it’s going to take six months before it’s going to be helpful. So we treat the immediate problem right now and then to try to prepare for next year or months down the road,” Kammermeyer said. “We’re waiting here ready to help when the pollen hits.”


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