By Sydney Dixon – WUFT contributor
As pollen fills the air, so do countless sneezes.
The early spring season can heighten many allergens in North Central Florida. In addition to yearlong allergies to things like dust or mold, people can experience more allergy symptoms in the tree allergy season, which extends from late January to late March, said Dr. John Harwick, who specializes in otolaryngology (ear, nose and throat) at Shands at UF.
“There have been more tree-pollen sufferers presenting with symptoms earlier this year than other years, for sure,” Harwick said.
Catherine Seemann, marketing coordinator at the UF Student Health Care Center, said students come in with seasonal allergies anytime the pollen count is high.
Seemann said the concerns with allergies vary with each person. Her main tip for individuals suffering from allergies is to check the pollen count with a general Internet search or in the news.
“If it’s super high, you may not want to go outside,” she said.
Seemann suggested not opening windows in a car caked with pollen or not hanging bed sheets outside as ways to avoid aggravating allergies.
Seemann also advised those with allergies to drink lots of water to help keep passageways moist.
Harwick suggested flushing allergens from the nose with the use of a nasal saline irrigation (using distilled water, not tap) to make a saline solution. This, in addition to taking over-the-counter or prescription medications, usually proves to be effective for seasonal allergy sufferers, Harwick said.
Zoe Brew, a 19-year-old UF elementary education sophomore, has experienced allergies since she was 7 years old.
With pollen levels increasing around allergy season, Brew said her mornings have been ruined.
“My mornings are the worst,” she said. “I take allergy medicine, and I still sneeze at least seven times a day.”
Brew said she doesn’t know anyone else who suffers from allergies like she does. She takes numerous antibiotics to treat her allergies.
“I think it’s better to know your pollen levels, so I look up the levels almost every other day,” she said.
Gina Pisz, a UF animal science junior, said she never gets sick, yet she was sick for almost a week due to the arrival of allergy season.
Pisz was in Gainesville during spring break, and she said the pollen was ridiculous.
“I felt like I was getting a sore throat, but played it off as part of the temperature changes Gainesville is so fond of,” Pisz said. “However, as soon as I got back to my hometown, my sore throat got worse, and I got a full-blown cold.”
UF students experiencing allergies can visit the Student Health Care Center at 280 Fletcher Drive or call 352-392-1161.
The Shands at UF Head and Neck Surgery Clinic offers allergy testing. Allergy testing services are also available at Ear, Nose, and Throat (ENT) and Allergy Specialties at Hampton Oaks, 200 SW 62nd Blvd. Suite C in Gainesville. For children, appointments for allergy testing can be made at the Shands Hospital for Children at UF. Allergy testing involves either a blood or skin test.
Correction appended: A previous version of this article stated a UF elementary education sophomore’s name as Zoey Brew. Her name is in fact Zoe Brew.