Winter No Relief for Allergy Sufferers

The Associated Press
Friday, January 5, 2007; 5:56 PM

TRENTON, N.J. -- The unseasonably warm weather along the East Coast has flooded some offices with patients suffering from an unusual ailment this time of year: allergies.

Doctors say this winter's weather has sparked an onslaught of mold spores that cause allergies and fluctuating temperatures that irritate already-suffering nasal passages. Many patients may confuse an allergic reaction with a common cold.

"The phone is ringing off the hook _ it's incredible," said Dr. Clifford W. Bassett, vice chairman in charge of public education of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, who has a practice in Manhattan.

"It's an explosion of people who are realizing that they may have allergies," said Bassett. "Typically, January and February are quiet times in most allergists' offices."

Mold spores that grow outdoors would normally die off during a cold snap or be covered with snow. But in warm weather mold spores continue to grow and spread. Throwing open the windows to enjoy the weather makes things worse: The mold spores waltz inside.

Maria Carola, 35, of New York said usually she could go without her medication for chronic allergies in the winter. But she learned Friday from her doctor her runny nose and itchy eyes weren't symptoms of a cold as she suspected.

"Usually, the symptoms wouldn't be that prominent," Carola said of her allergies.

The most common allergy symptoms are itchy eyes, noses and throats, and possibly runny or stuffy noses, said Bassett. People with colds may share the stuffed up nose problem, but also may see changes in the color of their mucus, loss of appetite, fatigue, low-grade headaches or fevers.

Some doctors say a warm spell could bring a very early allergy season since trees might begin to bud early; others say the temperatures don't always make much of a difference.

© 2007 The Associated Press