Tree pollen affecting people with allergies earlier this year

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SALT LAKE CITY — Itchy, watery eyes, sneezing, a runny nose and even eye swelling all are allergy symptoms. And for many people will allergies, the suffering started a little sooner than usual this year.

Spring officially begins March 20, but the warm weather fooled the trees into thinking spring has sprung.

At the Rocky Mountain Allergy, Asthma and Immunology clinic in Layton, the staff has received more calls than usual from allergy patients in the past two weeks.

“What's happened this year is we haven't had that snowfall,” said clinic staffer Dr. Douglas Jones.

Isaac Smith has been suffering with allergies for years, and his symptoms are year-round because he has indoor and outdoor allergies.

“I should be bubble boy,” he said with a laugh.

Smith is allergic to trees, grass, weeds, molds and cats. But dealing with the symptoms is no laughing matter. It can be very challenging and frustrating.

“If you don’t sleep (well), then you are kind of irritable the rest of the day. Then functioning throughout the day, trying to breathe makes very normal activities and day-to-day activities very frustrating sometimes,” he said.

Barbara Madsen has been suffering from all kinds of allergies for about 30 years, and sometimes the symptoms are so bad, she said, that it’s hard to function.

“There are times when it’s been so difficult I felt I almost had to go to the hospital, not because I had a hard time breathing, but because the fatigue was about to make me faint,” Madsen said.

Smith and Madsen tried to treat their symptoms with over-the-counter medications, but that didn’t make much of a difference in their symptoms. Both are now receiving allergy shots to change the way their body reacts to allergens.

For those people who are severely affected by it, it affects their quality of life, sleeping at night, daytime activities. Some patients are even not able to work.

–Alan Bitner, allergist

“I’m doing a five-week cluster, where I come get three shots,” Smith said.

Madsen was put on a five-year program and is hoping the shots will end this summer.

“I come in here and get a shot,” she said. “In the beginning, it’s about every week, and then it tapers off to once every other week, and then once a month for a year. Then the formula is recalculated, and then we start over again.”

The shots actually change the immune system and make a person less allergic, potentially non-allergic, Jones said.

“We get great symptom control,” he said. “It changes the underlying problem instead of just putting a Band-Aid on it and hiding the symptoms.”

While most allergies aren’t life-threatening, they can make life miserable, said Alan Bitner, an allergist with Intermountain Healthcare.

“For those people who are severely affected by it, it affects their quality of life, sleeping at night, daytime activities. Some patients are even not able to work,” Bitner said.


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