OVERLAND PARK, Kan. - Itchy eyes and runny noses are par for the course every fall when the pollen from ragweed hits the air. But this year, the symptoms hit earlier and are lasting longer.
Dr. Jay Portnoy is Chief of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology at Children's Mercy Hospital. He confirmed that symptoms this fall are more intense. Portnoy blames the hot dry summer that produced a bumper crop of thriving, pollinating ragweed.
"They (ragweed plants) are producing more pollen and the pollen is more potent than it has ever been before, so it's particularly bad this year," explained Portnoy. "This year we're also seeing a lot of asthma wheezing, coughing and labored breathing and we don't usually see that from ragweed."
Dr. Portnoy said pollen is not the only culprit, noting people are also reacting to increased ozone from air pollution as well as high mold counts.
The typical symptoms are sneezing, itchy eyes and runny noses. But Portnoy said that this year he is seeing more people who are experiencing very watery eyes.
Evan Wyatt, of Olathe, Kan., is 7 years old. He has been suffering with asthma since he was a baby and has routine appointments at Children's Mercy South. He is used to suffering every fall, but said that this fall his symptoms are worse.
"On a scale of one to 10, last year was about a four and this year it's like eight or nine," Wyatt explained.
"It makes you feel sleepy and you just feel stressed out and you like sneeze all day," added the second grader at Walnut Grove Elementary School.
Portnoy said antihistamines can provide great relief. He recommends using generic versions of Claritin, Zyrtec and Allegra, but noted that when over-the-counter medicine is not helping, it is time to see an allergist.
Portnoy said there is light at the end of the tunnel for people suffering this season.
"Ragweed season lasts until the first week of October; so if you can hang in there another week or two the pollen counts will go down and things will get better," Portnoy concluded.