Health & Fitness

Itchy eyes? Runny nose? Sneezing? Here’s what’s causing your misery this spring

Spring starts the sneezing season in the Northwest. Here’s why

Tree, grass and weed pollens effect allergies in the spring and summer in the Northwest. Rain can reduce the pollen count and so can living in a city. This video includes some simple tips to make the sneezing season more bearable.
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Tree, grass and weed pollens effect allergies in the spring and summer in the Northwest. Rain can reduce the pollen count and so can living in a city. This video includes some simple tips to make the sneezing season more bearable.

You can blame the itchy eyes, runny nose, sneezing attacks and wheezy rattle in your lungs on the warm days we’ve been having recently.

More specifically, you can blame the warm weather for a sharp increase in tree pollen, specifically from alder and the cedar/juniper family, especially in north Whatcom County.

“The pollen counts, because of the warm weather, have jumped up from low to high,” Dr. David Elkayam, of the Bellingham Asthma, Allergy & Immunology Clinic, said to The Bellingham Herald.

The counts increased from 50 pollen particles per cubic meter of air to the 600 range, according to Elkayam.

The count is high in the northern parts of Whatcom County and low in Bellingham, according to the clinic’s pollen graph on its website.

Later in spring, allergies may be triggered by birch pollen, Elkayam said.

“A whole lot of” tree pollen is floating around

Whatcom County isn’t alone.

The tree pollen count was very high in the Seattle area at around 699 pollen particles per cubic meter of air, according to the Northwest Asthma & Allergy Center.

How is the pollen released into the world around you? Look no further than the catkins dangling from the trees. They’re just waiting for a breeze to release the pollen from the catkins.

Pollen alder catkins.jpg
Shaking of a cluster of alder catkins releases a cloud of pollen. The pollen count from cedar, juniper and alder trees in the northern part of Whatcom County is high this week after string of warm days. The Bellingham Herald file Staff

“Each of those can release thousands of pollen grains per day,” Elkayam said. “There’s a whole lot of this stuff floating around in the air.”

Meanwhile, the pollen count from grass, weeds and outdoor mold are so low as to be non-exsistent in Bellingham and Whatcom County.

Allergies bothering you?

Seasonal allergies can leave you with a cough, itchy and runny eyes and stuffed up nose. For many with pollen or grass allergies, spring and summer can be uncomfortable. Mayo Clinic allergist Dr. Nancy Ott says over-the-counter remedies such as an

For most people, symptoms can be alleviated with over-the-counter medication such as Flonase, Nasacort and Rhinocort, as well as Claritin, Zyrtec and Allegra, according to Elkayam.

For some, allergy to tree pollen might trigger sports asthma. If you find yourself coughing for 10 to 30 minutes after running a few miles, you might have it and need an inhaler to relieve your bronchial spasms, according to Elkayam.

Kie Relyea has been a reporter at The Bellingham Herald since 1997 and currently writes about social services and recreation in Whatcom County. She started her career in 1991 as a reporter and editor in Northern California.


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