CAPE CORAL, Fla. — Sneezing. Runny nose. Eyes watering. All symptoms that many of us are experiencing here in Southwest Florida as seasonal allergy season is here in full force.
“There has been an uptick in not only the volume of the patients we are seeing this season, but the severity of the symptoms,” said Lee Health Allergist and Immunologist Dr. Elvin Mendez.
Dr. Mendez says the majority of the current seasonal allergies are coming from trees, with the top allergens coming from Oak, Juniper, and Bayberry. Dr. Mendez we have seen an increase in tree pollen in the last few years.
“You look at 2021, we basically had high levels of tree pollen in the Spring, which for us is anytime from January, February through April,” said Dr. Mendez. “And then moderate counts in November, because we have two tree pollen seasons in the state of Florida. And you compare that to 2022, where you have high levels and moderate levels in a very similar pattern. But now, in 2023, we have high to very high of tree pollens, between just January to April.”
According to a recent study from Climate Central, North American pollen seasons are becoming longer and more intense due to the warming accounting for about half of the shift towards earlier pollen seasons and about an 8% increase in the amount of Spring pollen.
“Our season is usually Spring because that is the heaviest and most impactful to our community,” said Dr. Mendez. “So that is going varied on the time of year and whether we have a cold winter or not.”
And if you are thinking, we lost a lot of trees from Hurricane Ian, Dr. Mendez says he is watching what the impact of regrowth will mean for springtime allergies over the next 1 to 3 years.
“As these trees start growing and things start pollinating, it is going to be interesting to see if there is a change in that pattern or not,” said Dr. Mendez.
When it comes to treating your allergies, Dr. Mendez says it is better to consult your doctor before you start taking over the counter medications.
“We have to cautious with over-the-counter remedies for two reasons,” said Dr. Mendez. “We have to cause about side effects and drug interactions. And then two, we have to look into whether you are masking something or not.”
The other question, Dr. Mendez gets a lot, ‘when will we see some relief?’
“So, when someone asks when it is going to end? I say when you leave the state of Florida,” said Dr. Mendez.
He says tree pollens are typically elevated from January through April then again in November. Grass pollen peaks into the late summer. With ragweed coming in the fall as well. As mold, it is with us year-round, but typically peaks in the summer with rainy season. That said, Dr. Mendez says we typically get one to two months of a reprieve during the winter months, before trees pick up again.