The culprit is tree pollen. Experts correctly forecasted this season as the worst allergy season for many seasons to come.
The wet winter followed by an unusually cold spring has driven trees into overdrive, producing pollen in excessive amounts, sending counts soaring.
In the first week of May 1999, weekly pollen counts reached more than 1,000. For the same period last May, the number skyrocketed to over 3,000. Just last week, pollen counts topped 6,700 in northern New Jersey.
"Today, the oak is the principal pollen," explains allergist Dr. Ira Finegold. "It's just blowing into everyone's face and lungs and when it hits your eyes, it gives you redness and itchy eyes."
Skin tests can help determine what someone is allergic to. Treatments can range from antihistamines to allergy shots that must be given regularly for 5 years or more but offer long-term relief.
But the treatments are not cures and don't always eliminate all symptoms. Some sufferers supplement their shots with nose sprays to relieve congestion.
The worst of the tree pollen onslaught should be over within a couple of weeks, just in time for grass pollen to take over. However, most people are not highly allergic to both.
Limit your time outdoors if possible and keep the air conditioner on, even at night.
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