Allergy Season Could Be Worst in Years After Wet Winter

Allergy season could be worst in years, say some experts.

ByKIM CAROLLO, ABC News Medical Unit
May 13, 2011, 12:11 PM

May 16, 2011— -- Like about 40 million other Americans, Becca Deal of Huntersville, N.C. is sneezing through a particularly tough allergy season.

"I have a lot of congestion, a lot of sinus drainage and sinus headaches. A lot of that drainage goes to my ears and I get frequent ear infections," said Deal. "It's been a lot worse this week than it's been all season."

She takes medication, but it doesn't always help.

"I still have bad allergies, even with medication."

And her suffering could get even worse if the prediction by some allergy specialists that this allergy season is going to be worse than previous ones is accurate.

Experts say extreme weather is perhaps the biggest culprit. Record rainfalls in some parts of the country have caused the levels of pollen -- one of the most common allergens -- to skyrocket.

"We are seeing a lot of people having problems with their asthma being triggered by their allergies," said Dr. James Sublett, managing partner of Family Allergy and Asthma in Louisville, Ky. "We've had record amounts of rain and some flooding which can contribute to indoor air problems from mold in addition to the usual springtime allergies from trees and grasses."

Louisville, in fact, is one of the worst cities for allergies according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America's 2011 list of Spring Allergy Capitals. Louisville ranks second behind Knoxville, Tenn. Charlotte, N.C., Jackson, Miss. and Chattanooga, Tenn. round out the five worst. The rankings are based on the amount of tree pollen in the area, the number of allergy medications used by people living in the region and the number of practicing allergists there are.

"[In addition to tree pollen] the grass pollen is also creeping in their now because peoples lawns are very ready to go. So you get a double wammy of tree and grass pollen," said Dr. Clifford Bassett, clinical assistant professor of medicine at NYU School of Medicine in N.Y. and medical director of Allergy and Asthma Care of N.Y. "If you look at the [pollen counts] in most areas throughout country, they are at record highs."

Bassett also said other factors could be influencing the pollen counts. An increase in the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere caused by greenhouse gases may be one factor. Additionally, he said, people more often choose to plant male plants over female plants because females produce a lot of twigs and debris. Male plants, however, produce pollen.

There are a few simple things allergy sufferers can do to help alleviate suffering.

"See an allergist for simple, fast, reliable allergy tests so you can get relief. Many medications will work better if you start them even before symptoms begin in many cases," he said.

Since medication doesn't work very well for Deal, she said she just plans to adapt the same way she's always adapted to this time of year.

"It's in the back of my mind, but I'm not going to let it stress me out. I just suck it up and deal with it."

Additional reporting by ABC News' Jane Kurtzman and Mikaela Conley.

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