The beautiful, dry, windy days of late September lend themselves to more than fall fun: The itching, sneezing pain of allergies is back in full force.
And Yorkers are piling into doctor's offices searching for help.
"We definitely are seeing people are experiencing symptoms," said Dr. Melissa Denham, a provider at Patient First in Springettsbury Township.
That's because ragweed pollens have returned, and there are people who specifically suffer from fall allergies because of the weeds and molds, she said. Within the last two weeks, symptoms have returned for them, she said.
"(But) I can't say it's any worse than normal," Denham said.
And at Allergy & Asthma Consultants in Spring Garden Township, nurse practitioner Ann De Bien agreed that the season has been typical, but many people have suffered severely, she said.
"We do have some big sufferers," she said. "In the past two weeks, I've seen some significant worsening."
That's because of the weather conditions: Pollen thrives on dry, windy days, De Bien said.
Looking ahead: And even though August might have been dry, plants continued to pollinate, said Dr. Michelle Weiss, a provider at the Family Center for Allergy and Asthma in York Township. So this autumn's allergy season is peaking now, Weiss said.
"Even though it may seem dry, the grass never burnt out. ... Things remained green," she said.
And on those "perfect" allergy days, allergy sufferers are more likely to venture outside, which can worsen symptoms.
"People want to get outside, and pollen gets carried by the wind for hundreds of miles," Weiss said.
Allergy season will last until the first heavy frost, which will decrease the irritating ragweed, the providers said.
The coincidence of ragweed season, which started Aug. 15, and the start of school brings a slew of illnesses and allergy symptoms, Weiss said. And it's the "perfect storm" of congestion, coughs, sneezing and itchy eyes for many, she said.
But the difference between an upper respiratory infection and allergies is clear, Denham said.
Although there is some overlap in symptoms, there are some general distinctions: Colds last three to seven days, whereas allergies last weeks or months; colds can create fevers, and allergies can't, she said.
And colds are caused by viruses, whereas allergies are caused by a person coming into contact with substances in the environment that cause allergic reactions, Denham said.
What to do: But fortunately, aside from locking themselves inside, there are many treatment options for people suffering from allergies.
There are three tools they can use, Weiss said.
Changing your environment to reduce exposure can help reduce the number of allergens you come in contact with, she said. Keeping windows closed will keep pollen out of the home, and bathing at the end of the day will remove it from the hair and skin, she said.
And there are great over-the-counter antihistamines that help to reduce sneezing, dripping and itching, she said.
For congestion, going to the doctor for a nasal steroid spray helps, she said, and rinsing the nose with saline also helps to decongest and moisturize.
"You can use saline as many times a hundred times a day if you want," Weiss said.
The third tool, allergy shots, would be administered by a doctor, retrain the immune system and are ideal for moderate allergy sufferers, she said. People who have lots of problems with nasal symptoms have a 65 percent increased chance of developing asthma, she said.
"I really believe that we have so many wonderful medications that everyone can feel better," Weiss said.
There's even a phenomenon, oral allergy syndrome, that occurs in people who have very strong underlying allergies, she said. For instance, cantaloupes, watermelons and bananas cross with ragweed and can cause those who partake in the fruit to get itchy mouths.
But they do not have to suffer alone, she said.
"Everyone deserves quality of life, and these things should be addressed in the safest way possible," Weiss said.
--Reach Mollie Durkin at firstname.lastname@example.org.