Health & Fitness

Drink vinegar? Eat honey? Tips for surviving Sacramento’s terrible pollen season

Be careful before rushing outside to enjoy the sunny weather, Sacramento. Clear skies come with a major drawback: pollen.

Pollen season is in full swing in the region, and without rainfall to wash pollen out of the air, going outside may mean itchy eyes, runny noses and sinus pain for allergy sufferers.

“Over the next several days, it will be breezy and dry, with no rain to wash pollen out of the air,” Dave Samuhel, a senior meteorologist at Accuweather, said.

Winds coming from the northwest will push pollen out of trees and into the air, according to Samuhel. Tree pollen is currently the main allergy trigger, Samuhel said, but grass pollen is also a problem in the spring.

Pollen.com, a site dedicated to pollen forecasting, showed Sacramento with a high pollen count of 10.2 out of 12 Wednesday, and forecasts similarly high levels for the next five days. The Weather Channel also reports pollen levels are high, but Accuweather lists tree pollen concentrations as moderate.

Of course, Sacramento is the “City of Trees,” and Pollen.com says Oak, Mulberry and Ash tree pollens are Sacramento’s current top allergens.

Winds that could knock pollen out of these trees will be worst Wednesday afternoon and Friday, National Weather Service meteorologist Craig Shoemaker said.

Although the NWS doesn’t track pollen counts, Shoemaker said the “way above normal wet season” means that plants are starting to bloom, and quickly, now that temperatures are rising, which could also increase the amount of pollen in the air.

According to Dr. NaYoung Kim, an allergist and immunologist with Kaiser Permanente in Sacramento, simply avoiding going outside may be the easiest way for people with bad allergies to deal with the pollen.

“When you look outside and see that it’s super windy, try to stay inside,” Kim said. “If you go outside, try to wear a hat and sunglasses, and when you get inside, peel everything off and shower immediately.”

People often forget that dogs can track pollen into the house, according to Kim, so even if they take the precautions she mentioned, they often neglect to prevent their pet from getting pollen on furniture.

Popular home remedies for allergies include drinking apple cider vinegar, consuming local honey and using a neti pot to flush out the sinuses, but Kim said that evidence supporting these methods is all anecdotal.

Instead, Kim first recommends to her patients a nose spray like Flonase, a steroid that is available over the counter. But she said not everyone likes nose sprays, and that she often recommends Claritin, Zyrtec or Allegra or their generic-brand equivalents depending on patients’ needs.

Claritin is best for the elderly with allergies or kids with mild symptoms, according to Kim. Allegra is effective but more expensive, and Zyrtec is effective but causes sleepiness in some allergy sufferers, she said.

Allergies can come and go over a lifetime, according to Kim. It all depends on the environments people have experienced. For example, someone who moves to a new area may react because there is more pollen than they are used to. But someone who is experiencing new kinds of pollen in the air may go through a “honeymoon period” and not have any symptoms because their body hasn’t been sensitized to the new allergen, Kim said.

People can also lose sensitivity to allergens over time, but Kim said trends are showing that people are holding onto allergies longer and longer.

“This is a particularly bad area (for allergies),” Kim said. “We’re kind of a dust bowl here and it’s ‘The City of Trees,’ so allergies are really bad.” Kim said she was recruited to come to Sacramento from the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., because allergies are such a problem in this area.

Although there is a lot of pollen in the air in Sacramento, pollen trends are similar to those throughout the country, according to Samuhel.

“There’s high tree pollen right now across most of the southern portion of the country and even into the northeast,” Samuhel said. “The only areas that are escaping are places where there aren’t leaves on trees yet.”

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