Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Allergies got you down? Join the crowd

Oak pollen bursting forth from a tree in Clearwater. The wind carries pollen and the pollen that’s bothering you may be coming from a tree you’ve never even seen.

JIM DAMASKE | Times (2006)

Oak pollen bursting forth from a tree in Clearwater. The wind carries pollen and the pollen that’s bothering you may be coming from a tree you’ve never even seen.

If your allergies seem worse than ever this year, you're right. • "Pollen counts are high and many people are complaining of problems,'' said Dr. Richard Lockey, director of the division of allergy and immunology at USF Health. "It's just as bad as ever. And it's bad."

High humidity, stable air temperatures and the lack of heavy rain all contribute to high pollen levels. According to, a national pollen and allergy tracking service, the Tampa Bay area is in the high to very high range now mostly with oak, juniper and nettle pollen.

Oak pollen season usually runs from mid-February to mid-April. "From Valentine's Day to tax day, I tell patients," said Dr. Jack Parrino, an allergy specialist with Tampa Allergy Center.

But this season got an early start — warm winter temperatures caused oak trees to bloom earlier.

"I have my 'weather vane' patients who let me know when pollen is in the air. They started calling in early January with symptoms," said Parrino.

By the way, if you're pulling out your chainsaw now and eyeing that mighty oak in your yard, don't bother. Oak pollen travels on the wind. The pollen that's bothering you may be coming from a tree you've never even seen.

What's your best defense? Prevention, said Lockey. "It's much more difficult to turn off the allergic reaction than it is to prevent it from the beginning."

• Ideally, you should start prescription preventive medications such as steroid nasal spray, two to four weeks before the season starts.

• But it's not entirely too late. Use your prescription or over-the-counter allergy medication every morning during the season. They work more effectively that way. Don't wait for your eyes to stream and your nose to run.

• Avoid exposure. "Don't sit outside under oak trees watching a baseball game" if you know you're allergic, said Parrino.

• Wash away the evidence. "Change clothes when you come inside and rinse off in the shower," Parrino said.

• Got itchy eyes? If you wear contact lenses, you may need to go to your eyeglasses during the peak of the season, as having a foreign object in your eye just increases irritation, Parrino said. If your symptoms are less severe, try eye drops, but use them before you put your contacts in. Look for brands that promise 12-hour relief, like Zaditor.

• Finally, if medications and avoidance don't make life bearable, see a doctor. "It usually takes a combination of medications to get good control," said Parrino.

Plus, you'll get some much-needed sympathy. Commiserates Lockey: "All allergy seasons are the worst ever.''

Contact Irene Maher at

Coming attractions

After oak pollen season finally ends, Dr. Parrino said there are about 14 more tree varieties that will bloom locally until around mid May.

Then there's grass allergy season, from May to August or September. Grass allergies generally are not as severe, and although it's a long season, heat keeps us indoors longer with the windows closed, lessening exposure.

Then there's the weed season, primarily ragweed, from mid August to about November.

Allergies got you down? Join the crowd 03/14/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 21, 2012 2:54pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. No touchdown, but fun lesson for Bucs' Adam Humphries


    It didn't end up being a touchdown, but one of the Bucs' biggest hustle plays in Thursday's win over Jacksonville saw receiver Adam Humphries scoop up a loose ball just before halftime, after what looked like an incompletion but was correctly ruled a Jameis Winston fumble.

    Bucs WR Adam Humphries runs to the end zone with QB Jameis Winston trailing -- his alert play wasn't a touchdown because teammates cannot advance a fumble in the final two minutes of a half.
  2. Bucs' Demar Dotson should be back from injury next week


    The Bucs got good news on starting right tackle Demar Dotson, whose MRI showed only a mild right groin sprain and should be back at practice next week.

    Bucs tackle Demar Dotson, shown last year when he signed a three-year contract extension, should only miss a week of practice with his groin injury and can return healthy for the Bucs' season opener at Miami in three weeks. [Octavio Jones | Times]
  3. Comedy legend Jerry Lewis dead at 91


    LOS ANGELES — Jerry Lewis, the manic, rubber-faced showman who jumped and hollered to fame in a lucrative partnership with Dean Martin, settled down to become a self-conscious screen auteur and found an even greater following as the tireless, teary host of the annual muscular dystrophy telethons, has died. He was …

    In this Sept. 2, 1990, file photo, entertainer Jerry Lewis makes his opening remarks at the 25th Anniversary of the Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon fundraiser in Los Angeles. Lewis, the comedian whose fundraising telethons became as famous as his hit movies, has died according to his publicist. [Associated Press]
  4. Mastermind of lottery rigging scam that netted millions faces 25 years


    DES MOINES, Iowa — For a decade, computer programmer Eddie Tipton reliably showed up for work at the central Iowa office of the Multi-State Lottery Association and earned the confidence of his co-workers, a team of technicians entrusted to build computers used to randomly pick numbers for some of the most popular …

    FILE - In this June 29, 2017, file photo, Eddie Tipton, the former Multi-State Lottery Association information security director who admitted to masterminding a scheme to rig lottery games that paid him and others $2 million from seven fixed jackpots in five states, is seen in court in Des Moines, Iowa. Tipton is scheduled to be sentenced Tuesday, Aug. 22. (Rodney White/The Des Moines Register via AP, File) IADES501
  5. Pasco County man killed in wrong-way crash on New Jersey Turnpike


    MOUNT LAUREL, N.J. — Authorities say a Florida man driving the wrong way on the New Jersey Turnpike was killed when his SUV crashed head-on into another vehicle.