Mild winter gives early start to plants and pollen
TAMPA - The eyes are burning and red. The nose is stuffy and itchy. The sneezing is incessant. And it's only the beginning of February. Pollen season already is in full bloom, and you can blame the unseasonably warm weather. "We are seeing this (pollen) season two weeks early," said Dr. Richard Lockey, director of the Division of Allergy and Immunology at University of South Florida College of Medicine.The warm weather from the mild winter is causing the trees to bud. Flowers and cones come out, and with them, pollen. The wind removes the pollen from oaks, cypress and cedar and Australian pines, creating clouds of pollen, Lockey said. A good rain could help alleviate the discomfort for at least a couple days. The rain helps wash the pollen out of the air, Lockey said. During the dry season, however, don't expect the rain to be much help. "Any rain would be a plus," said Steve Jerve, News Channel 8 chief meteorologist. "But what we need is consistent rain. I'm not sure the rain this week would fit the description of consistent rain." The warm weather is exacerbating the problem for allergy sufferers. On Monday, the high was 84 degrees, which tied the 1957 record, Jerve said. Lockey said last week his Tampa medical office started to get an increase in calls with people complaining about allergies. Typically, pollen season begins in mid-February. The season peaks in the middle of March and usually is mostly over by the end of April, Lockey said. But if the weather pattern continues, Lockey anticipates the pollen peak to occur in early March. The plus side is it should end a little earlier, by the middle of April, he said. Meanwhile, people who are suffering from allergies need to take care. Lockey recommends using over the counter antihistamines with or without decongestants. The antihistamine helps with the sneezing, itching and runny nose. The decongestant takes away the stuffiness, Lockey said. At home, keep the windows closed and run the air conditioner. Same holds true in the car, Lockey said. If your condition hasn't improved, see a professional. "If you are not doing well, you have to see a specialist," Lockey said.
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