Allergy season arrives early following mild winter



None - PITTSBURGH -- The mild winter Pittsburgh has experienced is a welcome break for many people.

However, those who dread allergy season aren’t happy because it’s already arrived. Doctors said the warm winter is unprecedented, and 2012 could be the worst year yet for allergy sufferers.

LINK: Allergy Treatment & Care

Allergist Deborah Gentile from Allegheny General Hospital said she's never seen anything like it.

“We're actually seeing our schedule filled with allergies, as well as asthma,” said Gentile.

In fact, this week, AGH found tree pollen in the air for the first time in February.

Unfortunately, the active winter allergy season means it could be a long spring for people with allergies.

However, it's never too late to take action.

Sufferers should begin on over the counter antihistamine like Allegra, Claritin or Zyrtec. If that's not doing the trick, talk to your doctor about a prescription medication.

“If we have a warmer, earlier spring, then people will have respiratory symptoms earlier on,” Pam Griggs, a lab technician at the Atlanta Allergy and Asthma Clinic, said. “If you know you have spring allergies and are more sensitive to pollen that come out in spring then you can keep track of certain pollen counts.”

A machine outside the clinic catches pollen, and Griggs then examines the spores under a microscope. Instead of being in single digits, which is normal for February, some days the pollen count has reached 250.

Dr. Fernando Holguin, who works with the Asthma Institute at UPMC, said now is the time to act.

“I think it’s important for people who are really allergic to pollens in the spring to act now,” Holguin said. “For example, those who have a lot of nasal symptoms and are always congested and sneezing.”

Experts advise anyone with strong allergies to be prepared in case spring makes an early arrival.