EASTCHESTER, N.Y. – Even though it is March, it's time to stop and smell the roses, unless of course you suffer from seasonal allergies – in which case, you'll be hard pressed to smell anything.
Springtime allergy season typically arrives either early or late April in this part of the country, but the unusually mild winter might mean an early beginning to stuffy noses and itchy eyes.
"I would not say that we have had more customers than usual for allergy season," said Value Drugs manager Ron Rao. "But we definitely had customers earlier than usual."
Dr. Wang Y. Mak of Edgemont, whose Allergy & Asthma Family Care practice is at 455 Central Park Ave., said that obviously, tree pollens will be early.
“That is, unless Mother Nature were to come up with one of those freak March snowstorms,” Mak said.
Allergy sufferers might be miserable in the springtime – or any time, for that matter – but they're far from alone. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, about 26 million Americans endure chronic seasonal allergies.
Rao said that it is difficult to get some of the more popular allergy medicines, and noted he just received a shipment of one of the most popular allergy medicines, children's strength Benedryl,
"When there is a high demand, the big chain stores get the products before we do," Rao said. "And there has been a demand that is earlier than usual."
Allergic reactions are the body's response to an invasion. When your interior sentries detect foreign substances (antigens), the immune system is triggered. Its antibodies attack the allergen, leading to the release of histamines, which trigger allergic symptoms.
Allergens responsible for early spring afflictions begin with tree pollens, which are released when young buds develop into leaves. Pollens typically become a factor around the beginning of April and grass pollens follow around mid-May.
Scarsdale has been included, for 28 straight years, on the Arbor Day Foundation's Tree City list, along with Greenburgh, which earned its first designation in April 2011. For allergy sufferers, though, that distinction has a downside.
According to Mak, maples, oaks and birch trees are among the biggest problems for the pollen-sensitive set.
"If you're one of those unlucky individuals who are allergic to pollen, it doesn't really matter. If you are allergic to certain types, you are probably allergic to others,” Mak said.
How does a person discern between an early spring allergic condition and a late winter cold? Colds usually last five to seven days and can be accompanied by fever, body aches and other symptoms. People experiencing persistent cold-like respiratory symptoms – without fever and body aches – might be suffering from allergies.
Sufferers with intermittent or occasional symptoms should consider seeking relief from over-the-counter medications, Mak said, but cautioned against overuse of nasal sprays. Instead, he recommends antihistamines and eye drops.
But Rao said that most of the allergy medicines are over the counter now.
"Most people go with the over the counter remedies because they are safe to use and get the job done," Rao said.