By Lauren Wanko
Colorful flowers, green grass, vibrant trees. All welcome signs that spring has arrived. But the sights of the season are anything but welcoming to allergy sufferers like Hannah Najafi.
“Allergies are really bad this year. I feel like it started at an awkward time. Usually it slowly eases in to it. Now, it just hits you all at once,” Jefferson resident Najafi said.
“It’s been awful,” said Caya Oshea of Phillipsburg.
Winter lingered longer than usual, and the slow start to spring has made for an especially intense allergy season. Monmouth University’s Pedram Daneshgar says during a typical spring, when the temperatures are warmer, the pollination period is staggered. Certain plants pollinate in March, others April and May.
“But because we had a shorter spring and everybody’s been kind of dormant, now that the temperatures are heating up, all these plants need to get there pollination done as quickly as possible so there’s a lot of overlap so we’re getting two to three times more pollen then we normally would,” said Monmouth University Assistant Biologist Daneshgar.
“Our schedules are full. Patients are calling every day to get in to be seen on the same day,” said Dr. Gary Gross of Atlantic Allergy, Asthma and Immunology Associates of New Jersey.
Atlantic Allergy, Asthma and Immunology Associates is packed with patients. Dr. Gross says allergy sufferers started calling his office even before the warmer temperatures kicked in.
“Even for the past month, even before the weather started to warm up, patients already were starting to feel some of their allergies develop because the pollen started coming out,” Dr. Gross said.
Dr. Gross says the most common symptoms are nasal congestion, itchy eyes, running nose, a cough and a scratchy throat.
All sadly familiar symptoms to 10-year-old patient Brian Lynch who feels so bad, he stayed home from school today.
“I have a cough and wheezing,” Lynch said.
Brian’s mom says her son has always suffered from allergies and this year isn’t any different.
“He gets asthma just from allergies. It affects his ability to run around and play with kids,” Laura Lynch said.
So what’s the best way to cope with allergy symptoms? Dr. Gross recommends three approaches — avoid what brings it on, close your house and car windows if you’re allergic to pollen. Medications, nasal sprays, eye drops and pills are recommended and many are now available over the counter. And allergy injection therapy can be another option for patients.
There is some good news. The spring allergy season typically ends by late June. But by mid-August ragweed allergies kick in. That typically lasts until the first frost.