Windy, dry weather triggers early allergy season

Posted: Updated:
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver

PHOENIX -- Sunny, warm and breezy weather might feel amazing in early February, but it’s wreaking havoc on allergy sufferers in metro Phoenix.

“It gets to the point where, almost the tightness of the chest, and you can’t breathe,” said Linsey Orlowski of Ahwatukee.

Orlowski is one of 40 million people living in the U.S. with indoor/outdoor allergies, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.

“We have been getting more calls for new patient visits,” said Dr. Michael Saavedra of Phoenix Allergy & Asthma. “This is the time of year when pollen counts tend to increase outside. When the pollen counts start to rise, people who are sensitive to those pollens tend to experience more symptoms.”

According to Saavedra, tree pollen, like juniper, is what’s triggering symptoms that resemble a cold.

“Sneezing, itching, watery eyes, coughing, congestion, headaches, fatigue,” Saavedra said.

One can sometimes tell the difference between a cold and seasonal allergies by the duration of the symptoms.

“A typical cold will tend to run its course within 7 to 10 days, and then you’ll recover. With allergies, the symptoms tend to be more chronic,” Saavedra said.

Saavedra says this allergy season is hitting Arizonans much sooner.

“Last year, the pollen season started early here in Phoenix, almost a month early, and that’s kind of what we’re anticipating for this year also because of the way the weather has been lately,” Saavedra said.

He says there are three main treatments for seasonal allergies.

“Avoidance of the things you’re allergic to, allergy medications, and allergy shots or immunotherapy,” Saavedra said.

Orlowski opted for the shots three years ago.

“I played sports in high school. It was hard to breathe just being in the outfield, constantly have to take medication over and over again. That gets extremely expensive, whereas the shots, it’s more of just a small copay,” Orlowski said.

“Allergy shots allow us to reprogram someone’s immune system to make them less allergic,” Saavedra said.

According to Saavedra, with the shots, symptoms decrease as your body builds a tolerance to those allergens, and a need for medications decreases.

Saavedra suggests contacting a physician if symptoms persist for several weeks. Testing can confirm an allergy diagnosis, and the right treatment for a patient’s specific needs can be prescribed.