Allergy season: Tree pollen count unusually high for SE Wisconsin

A rise in pollen and sniffles lately may be more than usual for this time of year.

Tree pollen counts in southeastern Wisconsin are the highest they have been in seven years -- but experts have tips on how to make it through.

After a long winter cooped up inside, many allergy sufferers are still avoiding the great outdoors.

"I have allergies to tree nuts, buckwheat," one allergy sufferer said. "Experiencing sneezing and watery eyes."

According to the Allergy Asthma & Sinus Center in Greenfield, birch and other tree pollen counts are higher right now than they've been since 2014. It's causing more sniffles than normal, and more calls for appointments for relief from allergy symptoms.

"With elevated temperatures and increased winds over the course of the last ten to fourteen days, we’ve really started to see those pollen counts go through the roof," said Dr. Nathan Lebak, immunologist-allergist with Advocate Aurora Health. "In addition, people are starting to get out a little bit more. The vaccine is increasingly being utilized."

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Lebak said another top question is how to tell the difference between allergy symptoms and COVID-19.

"Allergies are predominately itchy, so, you get the nose, itchiness in the eyes, as well as a clear runny drainage usually from the front of the nose," said Lebak. "At night, more down the back of the throat. There usually are not the muscle aches that go along with the viral infection."

Lebak said symptoms could be helped by wearing masks. Some experts say masks can actually help reduce allergy symptoms because they keep particles from going into your nose and mouth. They also say that if you wear sunglasses, you can keep the particles out of your eyes.

Wisconsin allergen outlook

"It could in theory be helpful. We don’t have a lot of data on that quite yet, but I know our American Academy of Allergies and Immunology is looking into those questions right now -- especially in regard to asthmatics," Lebak said.

Tree pollen season typically subsides midsummer. Until then, some allergy sufferers may be staying inside.

Pet hair can carry pollen, too. Animals play a roll in the pollination process, so if you have an animal that goes outside, make sure they are washed before snuggling too much.

Also, it might help to shower at night, instead of in the morning, to get rid of any pollen that may have attached to your skin or clothes during the day.

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