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Early Spring Brings Early Allergy Misery for Many Oklahomans

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Early Spring Brings Early Allergy Misery for Many Oklahomans

March 26, 2024

The third week of March in Oklahoma brought with it early signs of spring: green grass, warmer temperatures and the white petaled flowers of the Bradford pear tree. And with the new season comes what many Oklahomans dread to one degree or another: allergies.

Oklahomans may have also noticed that their body’s reaction to the changing season that range from minor to debilitating arrived earlier in 2024.

An early pollen season and climate change are shifting our pesky relationship with allergies, says Dr. Mary Beth Humphrey, chief of rheumatology, immunology and allergy at the University of Oklahoma’s Health Sciences Center’s College of Medicine.

“Climate change can affect how allergens are in the environment in multiple ways,” said Dr. Humphrey. “First, if you have a mild winter with very few frost days, the plants are far more likely to germinate early. The second is that the warmer seasonal temperatures are more conducive to plants growing earlier and lasting longer.”

All this can lead to what Humphrey describes as “individualized” symptoms of allergens, often categorized with the blanket term “hay fever.” Oklahomans may have found themselves dealing with watery or red eyes, congestion and/or a lack of a good night’s sleep by the end of February.

As a result of the warmer temperatures and the increase in precipitation that spring brings, Humphrey says a longer lifespan of vegetation and mold growth also play a role in a general feeling of discomfort.

The resulting effects appear to make the “early” allergy season less unique and more frequent. As that has become a reality, it is still too early to tell if you can set your calendars to this phenomenon every year.

“It’s very difficult to predict the cyclical nature of this,” Humphrey said. “We’ve seen record high heat during the springs and summer months; we’ve also seen some record colds during winter. This past winter, we had a few weeks of very cold, but it was followed rapidly by 80-degree weather and an early spring.”

There are some basic measures you can take to avoid harsh allergic reactions. Humphrey suggests washing your hair frequently and washing or replacing your pillows and sheets to avoid allergens sticking to your hair.

And your four-legged friends may unknowingly be bringing in allergens, adding to the misery, as well.

“Even your dogs and cats bring in a lot of allergens from outside,” Humphrey said. “You might need to wash your pets more often during high allergy times if the reactions are more debilitating to you.”

Nasal sprays or over-the-counter neti pots (used correctly with distilled, sterile or previously boiled water, never tap water) can be effective remedies for those who suffer mild to moderate symptoms. For those with stronger symptoms, Humphrey said daily use of a nasal steroid can help prevent allergy symptoms.

 

by Brady Trantham

About the University of Oklahoma

Founded in 1890, the University of Oklahoma is a public research university located in Norman, Oklahoma. As the state’s flagship university, OU serves the educational, cultural, economic and health care needs of the state, region and nation. OU was named the state’s highest-ranking university in U.S. News & World Report’s most recent Best Colleges list. For more information about the university, visit ou.edu.


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