Cold, wet winter brings relief for allergy sufferers

SEATTLE -- Endless rain. Chilly temperatures. Snow pounding the mountains.

This winter and cold spring were no picnic. But there is a silver lining to all the wet days:

An easy allergy season.

David Jeong, a doctor of Allergy & Immunology at Virginia Mason Hospital, said the harsh winter has kept pollen levels to a minimum, giving allergy sufferers some relief.

"The allergy season has been quite a bit shorter this year," Jeong said. "The pollen season got started at least a month later than usual and it's been lighter."

Jeong said this is the best some of his allergy sufferers have felt in years.

"It hasn't been as intense as we usually see," Jeong said. "The pollen just can't seem to sustain because we keep getting the rains and colder weather coming in intermittently."

Typically, the allergy season starts in late January or early February and lasts until mid-to-late summer. The worst time is between February and June. The allergy season comes in waves. Trees bloom early. Grasses and weeds bloom later.

But some pollen sufferers are still feeling a tingle in their nose, Jeong said. Those with heavy allergies should stay inside when they can, close windows and shower after playing outdoors. For many, medications are a must.

"We typically rely on medication to get pollen allergies under control," Jeong said.

Pollen allergies are hereditary, Jeong said, and generations of a same family are often impacted in a similar way.

Most allergy sufferers have itchy eyes and a runny nose. Allergies can be debilitating for some.

"Worst case scenario with the pollen allergies is developing some asthma symptoms," Jeong said. "People can really have trouble with their breathing and develop some wheezing and be short of breath."

For more on allergies and how to prevent symptoms, visit Virginia Mason's Asthma, Allergy and Immunology page.