Dr. Jennifer Caudle, an assistant professor at Rowan University and board certified family physician, said she has been seeing patients with allergy symptoms for about a month. “I’d say it’s already moderately bad,” she said. “I see people for allergies every day.”
While most people associate allergies with the onset of warm weather, Caudle said the temperature isn’t really a factor in allergy flare-ups. “It has to do with pollen and other substances that affect our allergies,” she said. “We’re all still in cold, winter weather mode, so it’s sneaking up on us.”
Allergy symptoms can include stuffy/runny nose, congestion, sneezing, itchy throat, coughing, itchy/watery eyes and fatigue. “Honestly, it is hard to distinguish, but you won’t get a fever with allergies,” she said. “If you have a fever, it’s most likely a cold.”
“It’s been said that if you live in South Jersey and don’t have allergies, there’s something wrong with you.”
Allergies also won’t bring about aches and pains similar to those associated with the flu, and colds usually don’t affect a patient’s eyes. “Itchy and watery eyes are usually associated with allergies,” Caudle said. “Cold symptoms can last from a couple days to a couple weeks,” she said. “But allergies can last longer, depending on how long you’re exposed to the allergen.”
Also, while colds come on gradually, allergies can come out of nowhere as soon as allergens are present. “Seasonal allergies are just that – seasonal. They come and go when the allergens change.”
In spring, the prominent allergens are grass, mold, weeds, and trees. A National Allergy Bureau publishes the daily pollen count at pollen.aaai.org.
“You can check the pollen count outside before you head out,” she said. “If it’s bad, you should keep your windows closed.” Those who are severely affected by allergens also shouldn’t sleep with windows open. “If you have to be outside, when you come back in, rinse off. Avoidance is key.” Other ways to avoid pollen is to limit outdoor activities when the pollen count is high, and dry clothing inside, not on the line.
There are both over-the-counter and prescription medications such as nasal sprays, pills, and eye drops, that can control allergy symptoms.
“The best way to treat the symptoms is to go to the doctor and get a proper diagnosis; that’s the most important thing. But if you get the same symptoms every year, and have found an over-the-counter medication that works, there’s no harm in trying that again. Then if it doesn’t work, touch base with your doctor.”