Wet summer means harsher fall allergies

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COLUMBIA - This summer has seen its share of rainy days. But soon that rain could cause Missourians some real headaches -- literally.

Columbia Doctor Leen Al-Sayyed said people will start to feel their seasonal allergies creeping back in next few weeks. She said in terms of signs and symptoms, fall and spring allergies are similar. However it is what triggers the symptoms that makes them different.

"In the springtime the triggers are pollens from flowers, grasses and trees," Al-Sayyed said. "But it's the pollens from weeds that trigger symptoms in the fall."

Al-Sayyed said many species of weeds pollinate when the weather begins to cool off in the fall; however, doctors can predict how severe allergies will be in the fall, long before the weather begins to cool.

Al-Sayyed said this summer's exceptionally stormy weather will mean a harsher fall allergy season in a few months.

"After long summers, or very wet summers like this one, that means more pollen can be expected in the fall," Al-Sayyed said. "Allergies have a lot to do with the weather. The more wet the ground is, and the more windy the weather is in the fall time... that means more allergies."

Al-Sayyed said wet ground allows the weeds to grow quickly and produce lots of pollen. The high winds then sweep the pollen into the air. However weather is not the only thing that can affect the severity of people's allergies. Al-Sayyed said the amount of carbon dioxide in the air also plays a role.

"With the increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the air as a result of global warming, we see pollen counts go up," Al-Sayyed said. "More pollution, more allergies."

She said while there is a variety of allergy medicine available to people, the best way to fight allergy symptoms is to reduce one's exposure before he or she starts feeling sick.

Al-Sayyed said she recommends people with serious allergies cover their mouth and noses with a paper mask or a handkerchief while they are outside.

"If you like to garden or hike, you can still be outside, but while you are outside you need to cover your airways and wear eyeglasses to protect your eyes from the pollen," Al-Sayyed said. "The key is prevention. Avoid the triggers, avoid the things that you know will give you symptoms."