That greenish-yellow film covering every possible outside surface in Summit County? Those cute, white cottonwood tree fuzzies floating past? They may look suspect, but they're not necessarily what's responsible for making you cough, sneeze and sniffle.
Rather, it's more likely the invisible and easily inhaled grass pollen that's making some Summit County residents suffer this early summer season, according to Dr. William Silvers of Allergy Asthma Colorado, which services Summit County patients through High Country Health Care.
"Because the trees and grasses peak at the same time, that's why people are feeling more miserable," he said.
It's been an earlier pollen season than usual, and a more intense tree and grass pollen season in Denver, Silvers said, that's causing more people to pour into his office. Although there haven't been any studies on Summit County's pollen counts in the past few years, the metro area's information "usually translates to the High Country also. We see the same patterns in general," Silvers said.
Justin Pollack, naturopathic doctor at the Mountain River Naturopathic Clinic, has also been seeing patients suffering from pine pollen, as well as smoke and dust. At this time last year, it was lots of flower allergies, since everything was blooming pretty well after a heavy snowpack, he said.
Allergy symptoms include sneezing, red and itchy eyes, stuffy and runny noses, and sometimes even hives, although that's less frequent, Pollack said. Sometimes people start to feel the symptoms and mistakenly believe they're getting a spring or summertime cold, when in actuality, it's allergic rhinitis, Silvers said. If people start experiencing coughing, chest tightness or shortness of breath, they need to go visit a doctor to make sure they're not getting asthma, which can exacerbate during the pollen season.
Silvers recommends normal symptoms be treated with over-the-counter, non-sedating antihistamines like Claritin, Allegra or Zyrtec, and previously prescribed eye drops, which can now also be found over-the-counter. The only effective nasal sprays are the topical nasal steroids or antihistamines are by prescription, Silvers said.
For those red and itchy eyes, Pollack recommends vitamin A eye drops, which actually nourish the tissues, he said. For general symptoms, he likes quercetin, a flavonoid that acts as a natural antihistamine that can be found in any health food store. Pollack's apothecary carries a quercetin, vitamin C and amino acid combination he likes. Some herbals like nettles also do a decent job, he said.
Pollack also uses an allergy elimination technique called BioSET at his clinic, which his patients have found effective, he said.
Clearing up your diet can help as well, Pollack said. He recommends staying off congesting foods like inflammatory fats and high amounts of sugars and gluten grains. As a teen, Pollack helped clear up his own seasonal allergies through a cleansing diet.
For those suffering from the sniffles, there will be relief coming about the middle of July, Silvers said. About a month later the weeds will start producing pollen, "but it probably won't be as bad as the tree and grass season," he said.