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Itchy eyes" Watery nose" Blame the trees

Ash, sycamore pollen causing trouble for allergy sufferers
By: Michelle Miller-Carl Journal News Editor
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Allergy sufferers may want to keep the Kleenex close at hand. Recent winds have coincided with the start of tree pollen season, spelling misery for locals with allergies. We aired a few questions with Dr. Stephen Nagy Jr., an allergist and clinical professor of medicine at UC Davis School of Medicne, from his Auburn practice Tuesday. Are you seeing a lot of allergy sufferers in your practice right now? “Yes, this season has sort of picked up in the last couple of weeks.” What is causing these reactions? “It all depends on the (person’s) pollen sensitivity. The tree pollen starts out in late February or March and reaches maximum (levels) through April, May or early June. It usually fades by early July. When you get into April, May, that’s grass (pollen).” What trees are sending pollen into the air now? “Right now we’re seeing ash pollen, sycamore pollen, grass is out there, too. Cottonwood. Oak is coming out. Olive is in the middle of May. Walnut is right now. As you go between Sacramento and the foothills, there’s a lot of ash and sycamore. There’s very little allergies above Colfax (because these trees don’t grow at higher elevations).” What are symptoms of allergies? “What distinguishes an allergy from a cold infection is itching. You’re going to be stuffed up and have nasal congestion, but when you blow your nose it’s going to be clear — if not it’s an infection. But the main thing with allergies is the eye itching, nose itching —this is most likely an allergy.” How does pollen get into the air? “Pollen is released every day by trees and grasses. Heat opens the pods and pollen is released. Wind blows the pollen around. (Pods) close at night when it’s cold. There’s a higher pollen count in the afternoon than the morning, so if someone’s going to walk regularly, it’s much better at 7 in the morning than 5 in the afternoon.” How do you find relief? “There are many newer medications in the last 20 years that are now available over the counter — Zyrtec, Claritin and generic forms.” Should you be tested for allergies? “The reason to do testing is to confirm you have allergies — not only that you have them but what kind. Some patients come in this time of year stuffed up and they’re sure it’s an allergy, when in fact it’s not an allergy, they have a chronic sinus problem. Some patients say they have trouble all year round but it’s much worse during spring. They probably have a cat in the house or a dust allergy. The important thing to do with allergies is to take measures to reduce exposure, but I won’t tell a family to get rid of the cat unless I know for sure (it is causing the allergy).”