The unseasonably warm weather of the past few days might have caused a small spike in allergies.
Dr. Pinkus Goldberg of Allergy Partners of Central Indiana says he has seen more asthmatic patients. He attributes the rise to a weather-induced increase in mold growth and dust mites — Central Indiana’s most common allergen.
“Dust mites need moisture out of the air to thrive,” he said. “Cold air can’t hold as much moisture, and when it gets bitterly cold, insects like dust mites die.”
Increased moisture and warmer weather also mean a growth of mold, which gets deeper into the lungs than pollen and can cause asthma, according to Goldberg.
“Mold spores are smaller than pollen grains and they go deeper into the lungs because they bypass the nose more easily, which is where you trap some of that,” he said.
Goldberg said once pollen season concludes near the end of September, people start going off their medications.
“Then it gets unexpectedly warm, and they don’t start their meds quickly enough, and they’re sicker,” he said.
But cold weather has its own set of issues for people with allergies. “When you turn the furnaces on, that kicks up whatever dust is in the system and blows out whatever’s in the system, dust mites, animal hair, et cetera that makes it worse,” he said.
Additionally, some people are sensitive to the change in season, and that can irritate them.
This year has been tough so far due in part to the rainy summer, which drove up the pollen and mold levels, according to Goldberg.
“It’s the worst year in three years for allergies because of all the rain in the spring and the warmth,” he said. “Cold air usually makes people feel a lot better.”
But Dr. Mark Holbreich of Allergy and Asthma Consultants said he hasn’t noticed an influx of patients with the warmer weather.
Since the pollen season ended in early October, no one has come in complaining of pollen symptoms, he said.
“For mold-allergic patients, they may still be having problems,” Holbreich said. But he thinks it’s just a longer mold season.
And some of it may not be allergy-related at all. “As we go from fall to winter, people tend to get sick. It’s probably normal, mostly viral.”
For anyone feeling under the weather, Goldberg recommends getting a high-efficiency particulate air cleaner, which can be put on the furnace or in the bedroom. He also suggests taking Vitamin D, as that seems to help immune functions. And, of course, he says to get appropriate medicines. “If it’s very mild, get some over the counter nasal sprays or antihistamines, and if it gets worse, see a doctor.”
Also, “get the flu shot, because that’ll be coming.”