An ‘aggressive’ allergy season ramps up, pollen count sky high

Those who suffer from other allergies, like dust and animals, may be more susceptible to those triggers when the pollen count is high, Dr. Martha White says. (WTOP/Megan Cloherty)

o WASHINGTON – This week is tough for those with allergies. Allergists say the most recent pollen count in our area was sky high and the rain may not be helping.

“To put it in perspective, a high tree count is about 75 in this area. Last Sunday, our tree count was over 1500,” says Dr. Martha White, research director at the Institute for Asthma and Allergy.

Her office is full of raw throats and red eyes, she says. But it’s not surprising given how aggressively the season is shaping up.

“We had a lot of water, so the plants have been very well watered. The spring came a little late. So when you throw together lots of water, growth and pollen in a relatively short pollen season then you can expect to have really high counts,” she says.

And while downpours can help wash pollen away, White says light rainfall can make symptoms worse.

“Even on a rainy day you would think with the counts lower you wouldn’t have so much of a problem, but the pollen gets leached out in the water droplets. So actually, what pollen we do have can be pretty darn effective on a rainy day if it’s not pouring,” White says.

Being exposed to a high level of pollen makes many people vulnerable to what’s called oral allergy syndrome. That’s when the body reacts to certain fruits and nuts by sending a response to your mouth.

“It’s because some of the fruits, veggies and nuts will cross react with the tree pollen. The same thing happens during ragweed season,” White says.

While it’s annoying, White says if the symptoms are just an itchy mouth or tongue, so it’s not dangerous.

To get a more restful sleep for those suffering from allergies, White suggests keeping the windows closed, washing pets frequently who’ve been outdoors and showering the pollen off before bed to help ride out the season.

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