Palette Magazine

How to Survive Allergy Season in South Florida

By John Tomkiw

With the rest of the country dealing with the aftermath of Snowpocalypse 2015 or whatever dramatic name was assigned for the next storm of the century, folks in Florida have been basking in sun-kissed climes, warm waters and lush foliage, teasing out Facebook posts touting temperature readings and shorts-and-tee selfies.

But that’s both a blessing and a curse. That’s because when the North, Midwest and East are blanketed in white — and the landscape lies dormant — Florida’s flora is almost in perpetual bloom. And that means pollen. And pollen means allergies.

Indeed, Florida’s allergy season is longer and stronger than most of the rest of the United States, with different allergen-producing foliage peaking earlier and at different times of the year. So, Floridians may have more sun, sand and surf, but they also have more wheezing, sneezing and sniffling.

For example, according to Michael Wein, MD, a clinical professor at the Florida State University School of Medicine in Vero Beach, there's a major tree pollen season for oak and pine in December and through May, another tree pollen season from October through November, a grass pollen season from April to October, a weed season for things like ragweed and dog fennel from May through December and a minor weed pollen season from March though July for sorrel and dock. That doesn't leave allergy sufferers with much time without a handkerchief.

But that also doesn’t mean allergy sufferers need to sequester themselves inside when all that sun is shining. It just requires some planning and some tips to ensure allergies don’t take over.

Proactivity is key

“Our expectation is for our patients to do all the things they enjoy to do, whether it’s inside or outside… and I think a lot of that is about having allergy symptoms under control leading up to allergy season,” says Thomas Johnson, MD, of Allergy and Asthma Care of Florida, in Ocala.

To that end, he recommends people get tested to determine specifically what pollens they are allergic to before medicating. Then, they can track pollen counts at  the National Allergy Bureau website (aaaai.org/nab) to minimize exposure. And he recommends starting treatment before the allergy season hits full bloom.

“Keeping a good amount of control leading up to and during that season is key,” he says. “Allergy shots can significantly improve (symptoms). With other medications, you can start taking them ahead of the season — like nasal steroids, which can help reduce the inflammation in the nose so you don’t have the same symptoms. Antihistamines can help as well.”

Dr. Wein also recommends:

• Participate in outdoor activities after it rains, or in the evening, when pollen counts are generally lower.

• Avoid hanging clothes outside to air dry.

• Use air conditioning to filter the air.

• Shower after outdoor activities to remove any clinging pollen.

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