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The weed, the seed, the sneeze

As mercury drops, fall allergies in full swing

Landon Florence of West Jordan sees some of fall's first color on a trail in Big Cottonwood Canyon.
Landon Florence of West Jordan sees some of fall's first color on a trail in Big Cottonwood Canyon.
Ravell Call, Deseret Morning News

While most Utahns are enjoying the cooler temperatures that signal the coming of fall, the change in weather means itchy eyes, runny noses and scratchy throats for allergy sufferers.

"It's fall pollen. Weeds, primarily," said Dr. Duane Harris, an allergist with the Intermountain Allergy and Asthma Clinic in West Valley City.

The pollen started swirling when temperatures started dropping in recent days and won't stop until there's snow on the ground.

This year's hot summer might have delayed the start of the fall sniffling season slightly, but it's in full swing now. Doctors at the clinic's Salt Lake office were too busy Friday to talk about the surge in pollen.

Harris said the pollen count was surprising high Friday. "It's a little bit cooler, and the weeds are feeling better," he joked. Not so for allergy sufferers, who are being hit with pollen from sagebrush and other weeds.

Allergies first bloom in the spring, when trees and then grass begins to stir. From about mid-July through August, most sufferers find relief as hot temperatures stifle pollen production.

This year's record-setting heat wave and accompanying drought could mean a milder pollen season for Utah, Harris said. "I'm guessing we will actually see less weeds," he said, adding he's heard reports that sagebrush is suffering in some parts of the state.

Dr. Charles Rogers of the Allergy Associates of Utah, though, isn't so sure.

"I would think the pollen season is going to be rather intense," Rogers said. "When it's drier out, pollen tends to blow around more and it tends to stay airborne longer." Plus, he said, plants tend to release more pollen in severe conditions like drought.

September and October, Rogers said, are traditionally the worst months for allergy sufferers, along with May and June. While most people wheeze and sneeze through spring and fall, a lucky few only react in one season.

Doctors recommend that anyone experiencing allergy symptoms should avoid going outside early in the morning or late in the day when the pollen count is usually higher. Over-the-counter antihistamines can help soothe symptoms.


E-mail: lisa@desnews.com