SARASOTA, Fla. - Allergies affect more than 55 million people in the U.S. Here on the Suncoast, seasonal allergies brought on by plants, trees and pollen are particularly severe and often mistaken for the common cold or flu.
Angela Correal's allergy symptoms are almost unbearable, she says. And it’s been going on for a month. “I've been feeling a burning sensation through my ears and itching, terrible itching and also my eye, and it seems like I'm talking through a tunnel of water.”
This year, Mother Nature's to blame, says Dr. Eva Berkes of Hawthorne Clinic and Research Center. “Tree pollens are number one through ten right now in causing allergy symptoms.”
And there's a laundry list of symptoms. “Eye itch, sneezing, congestion, post nasal drip, asthma.”
These are more classic allergy symptoms. “If you're finding that your chest is tight, wheezing, you're short of breath, you are rubbing your eyes when you're outside golfing, you're having a hard time picking up your yard because you're wiping your nose.”
She says patients often mistake allergies for a cold, or the flu. “They say, ‘I got two courses of antibiotics, I've been taking cold medicines.”
Allergies don’t go away, lasting for weeks; where a cold or flu resolves faster.
A hard to diagnose chronic cough that won’t go away is another common allergy symptom. “Many times it's from chronic post nasal drip that's been stimulated from chronic allergy.”
Often people don’t realize they have seasonal asthma, says Dr. Berkes. “They can't breathe, they can't run like they used to, they're chronically fatigued, they're draggy.”
A skin prick test can give you answers. “And then we do the skin testing and they wind up being allergic to fifteen, twenty trees.”
Relief can be as simple as avoiding that particular tree pollen, but it’s not that easy. “It seems like we're breathing pollen. I can see it coming through the back yard.”
But there is relief. “You can use an antihystamine, you can use salt water nasal rinses to decrease the post nasal drip. So sometimes you have to use prescription medications.”