'Perfect storm' of pollen creates allergy woes




Posted on March 31, 2010 at 5:00 PM

Updated Thursday, Apr 1 at 5:55 PM

DALLAS — Every year, allergy season seems to get worse. This year, there is information that backs it up.

WFAA looked at the last five years of spring pollen counts, and March 2010 is unlike any other.

The budding trees, blowing weeds and sprouting grass are  all too much for seven-year old Scarlett Terwege, whose eyes matched her name on Wednesday.

"My eyes are red, and I'm coughing, and my nose is runny," she said.

Allergists are seeing a rush of seasonal allergy patients just like her.

"She's a classic example of kids who are having problems with allergies," said Dr. Michael Ruff, an allergist with Texas Health Dallas.

Allergy experts say the weather has played a big role in this year's misery. Warmer winters typically bring milder — but longer — allergy seasons.

In recent years, pollen levels were relatively constant from the start of March. This year, because of persistent cold, spring pollens weren't detected until about the March 19, one day before the last North Texas snowfall. 

Then, there was an intense pollen surge starting on the 23rd  after the snow melted.

"I think it made all the trees hold back in their production," Ruff said. "So, they're all kind of hitting at the same time right now. So, it's really, really very difficult for allergic patients right now."

Ruff called it the "perfect storm" of pollen. It's a storm allergists expect to worsen in the coming days as more plants burst into bloom.

One tip to curb allergy problems is to take a shower and wash your hair immediately after coming home for the day. That will get rid of the pollen that's collected on your clothes and body so you don't sleep in seasonal allergens at night.

Allergy sufferers can also:

• Ban pets from the bed or couch. Pollen clings to pet fur.

• Don't hang laundry outside. Pollen can stick to sheets and towels.

• If you do outside chores, wear a dust mask.

• Try nasal washing to rinse pollens and bacteria from sinuses. Neti pots or other squeezable containers are available at most drug stores.

E-mail: jstjames@wfaa.com