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Spring Allergies: Early + Extreme

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


Gesundheit! If you're sneezing in Rhode Island, you're not alone. Photo: mcfarlandmo/Flickr.

It's beautiful in Rhode Island. It's miserable in Rhode Island. It's allergy season, the weeks of early spring that bring the double-edged sword of abundantly blooming trees along with itchy eyes, sore throats, and endless sneezing.

And with this year's extremely warm winter, allergy season has arrived early, and with a vengeance. GoLocal spoke with Russell Settipane, M.D, allergist at Rhode Island Hospital and the Allergy & Asthma Center. about what's going on out there on the spring breezes.

How early was allergy season this year, here in Rhode Island?

The allergy season was about two weeks ahead of schedule. Typically, allergy season starts as early as the 3rd or 4th week of March, but we started seeing patients as early as the second week of March who were complaining that their yearly allergy symptoms were hitting them earlier than usual.

Was it only a question of early buds on trees, or is it more severe as well?

The buds were early, but what is more significant was that the trees started producing pollen earlier than usual. We suspect it was the mild winter, particularly the mild March.

Did you find that your patients weren't ready for the onslaught of symptoms?

The four physicians at the Allergy & Asthma Centers had time to prepare because, based on reports of what was happening in Atlanta and other southern cities, an early start to the spring pollen season was highly predictable.

What is the most common allergen this time of year?

Tree pollen in April/May, most significantly maple, birch and oak pollen. Based on data we have been collecting since the 1940s, the grass pollen season starts in May, extending through July. The Ragweed pollen season starts in early August through October.

What can RIers do at this point to ride it out?

The tree pollen will only get worse as we move towards May (the biggest pollen month in RI); therefore if over the counter products are not controlling your symptoms, see your physician as soon as possible to get started on prescription treatment. If past treatment has been unsatisfactory, patients will be happy to know that there will be three new allergy medications available in 2012.

For more coverage, don't miss GoLocalTV, fresh every day at 4pm and on demand 24/7, here.


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