Allergies hitting York hard


You might want to keep tissues on hand, because allergy season is in full bloom, and it's a lot worse in York than in other communities.

According to a Natural Resources Defense Council report, Pennsylvania has been ranked as the second "Sneeziest and Wheeziest" state in the country, after Ohio.

The report, which ranked cities based on the presence of ragweed and unhealthy ozone pollution, named four Pennsylvania cities among the worst. Philadelphia was ranked the fourth worst for those sniffling through allergy season, then Allentown, which was listed 10th, followed immediately by Pittsburgh.

Harrisburg, a short drive away, came in as the 22nd sneeziest and wheeziest.

"Small cities and municipalities near those on our list are definitely at an increased risk for experiencing severe allergies and asthma," said Juan Declet-Barreto, report co-author and climate and health research fellow at the NRDC.

Overlap: As a consequence of living in an area where ragweed pollen and ozone smog intersect, Pennsylvanians are likely to suffer from itchy eyes, runny noses and sneezing. They may at times also find it hard to breathe.

According to American Lung Association data, more than 1.9 million children and adults in Pennsylvania live with asthma or chronic respiratory disease.

While allergies and asthma worsened by ragweed pollen are more prevalent throughout the fall months, climate change has and will intensify the symptoms and health risks as well as the duration of periods when allergy symptoms are experienced, Declet-Barreto said.

"Americans deserve to breathe clean air, but today millions of us are sneezing and wheezing from allergies and asthma linked to climate change-fueled ragweed pollen and ozone pollution," Declet-Barreto said.

"This double-whammy health threat will only intensify and affect more people if we don't take steps to limit climate change now."

Carbon pollution and resulting climate change allow ragweed to produce more pollen over a longer season, along with other pollen-producing plants like birch, oak and pine trees, according to the report.

In York: Those with allergies to tree pollen have been sneezing and sniffling through springtime, said Dr. Amy Auerbach with York's Allergy & Asthma Consultants Inc.

"This year has been an interesting one," she said. "Tree pollen is very significant every year, but we had a few weeks this spring where it was very, very high."

During those weeks in early spring, the pollen count was reaching 5,000, a very high count when compared to Wednesday's count of 1,787, which is also high, Auerbach said.

"It was kind of a unique situation where all the trees were pollinating at the same time, as opposed to a little more sporadically as they normally would," she said.

The season in which oak and other tree pollens are most prevalent endures the longest, Auerbach said, making it one of the most predominate allergens in the area.

As spring wanes into summer, those who suffer from grass allergies, particularly timothy grass, will begin to feel symptoms tickling their noses, Auerbach said.

"The main things that will affect the severity of allergies here are the growing seasons and the amount of development by you," she said.

"If you live in an area that's a little more developed, you won't be as affected by the seasonal pollen simply because there isn't as much pollen there."

Battling allergies: "If you are allergic to tree pollen, it will most likely affect you no matter what," Auerbach said, noting, though, that there are steps those struggling with allergies can take to be more comfortable.

Things as simple as closing windows and doors and drying clothes inside instead of hanging them on a line outdoors are among the easiest measures to take, Auerbach said.

"If you ride a motorcycle, you're not going to want to on days where the pollen count is high," she said. "If you do choose to ride, the pollen is going directly into your eyes, mouth and nose."

It is important for children to shower after playing outdoors, Auerbach said.

Younger children can suffer allergies at a more intense level, said Dr. Samantha Ahdoot, a pediatrician with Pediatric Associates of Alexandria in Alexandria, Virginia.

"Children spend a lot more time outside," Ahdoot said.

"They also have a higher respiratory volume when compared to adults, so they experience a higher dose of ozone."

Doctors and specialists also recommend monitoring the pollen count.

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