Summer in York has been mild, but fall allergy season probably won't be, according to local health-care providers.
Fall allergies, also known as hay fever, are caused by the season's pollens, such as weeds that crop up from mid-August until the first substantial frost, said Dr. Michelle Weiss, of the Family Center for Allergy and Asthma in York Township.
Other allergens include a fungus called "smut," which grows on crops and releases spores into the air as crops die or are harvested around this time of year, she said.
York had a bad spring allergy season because the late snow nourished plants and trees, which had very high pollen levels this year, Weiss said.
Now, with the recent rain and mild heat, weeds will likely be successful in pollinating, which would exacerbate fall allergy symptoms, she said.
"I think it's going to be terrible because we have had a lot of rain, and (plants) haven't burnt out," Weiss said. "Weeds are going to be very lush, and they're going to have tremendous amounts of pollens being released because it's been a very heavy growth period for them."
Ragweed season, notorious for causing allergies, officially began Friday.
Even if someone doesn't have ragweed in his backyard, wind can carry pollen for hundreds of miles, she said.
Ann De Bien, a nurse practitioner at Allergy & Asthma Consultants in Spring Garden Township, said she observed the first ragweed pollen of the season under a microscope last Monday.
Very rarely will someone have a reaction to ragweed and no other weeds, she said.
Ensuing rain brought the counts down to zero, but pollens started to come back Thursday as plants dried off and wind started to blow, De Bien said.
"I think conditions are nice and right to have nice, high counts" of pollen this season, she said.
Allergy symptoms include itchy, watery eyes, nasal congestion, runny rose and asthma, Weiss said.
It's not infectious; it's an allergic reaction experienced by people who have genetically inherited the predisposition to having allergies, she said.
"And they can be very miserable," Weiss said.
If one parent has allergies, there's a 50 percent children will have them, as well; if both parents have it, the risk increases to 75 percent, she said.
A lot of people who have allergy symptoms don't know exactly what causes them, De Bien said. Making an appointment with a health-care provider can reveal allergy triggers, which are "fun to know," she said.
"Come on in to be tested. It's informative; knowledge helps us live better quality lives - that's what it's all about," De Bien said.
To prevent symptoms, it's best to start treatment and prevention before the allergy trigger's season hits, she said.
Allergy sufferers should avoid pollen by keeping windows closed, showering after long periods of being outside and even wearing a mask when outside, especially while mowing grass, De Bien said.
They can also use saline mists and sprays to "shower" their noses, as well as use non-sedating, over-the-counter antihistamines, such as Allegra, or nasal steroid sprays, such as Nasacort, she said. Allergy eye drops can also help with eye symptoms, De Bien said.
Weiss added that allergy vaccines can retrain people's immune systems so they don't respond to harmless triggers anymore.
"People should be aggressive with their allergies because we can help," she said. "It's a miserable thing to have, but we have great remedies for it."