Dr. Clark Bailey's patients don't have to tell him how miserable their allergies are this year. As a fellow sufferer, he knows the feeling.
"I have certainly had them early this year," said Bailey, a general practitioner at Lexington's Central Baptist's Urgent Care. Some of his patients have complained of problems from allergies since February.
The spring allergy season normally gets under way right about now, but many sufferers have been sneezing for a month or more. Allergy sufferers can thank a mild winter with a lot of rain for their early symptoms.
"A rainy winter means a pollen-filled spring," said Dr. Beth A. Miller, associate professor and chief of allergy and immunology at the University of Kentucky.
So, what can you do amid your sniffling, sneezing and nose-blowing? Bailey and Miller said there are many good over-the-counter medicines, but "patients sometimes don't know what to choose," Miller said.
March has been littered with "high" readings for tree pollen, with little activity for mold and grass. On Monday, the tree pollen was rated as moderate along with mold.
The count can change, obviously, depending on the weather. Pollen travels best on breezy, dry days.
Because of the early allergy season this year, some people might mistakenly be taking general sinus medicine to treat allergy symptoms, Miller said.
If your symptoms are "itchy, sneezy, teary and runny," reach for an antihistamine, Miller said. If you can, use antihistamines as a preventive measure, Bailey said, because you don't have to wait until you are miserable before attacking your symptoms. Antihistamines work best if you take them as soon as you recognize symptoms, he said.
Bailey has had good luck with a variety of over-the-counter medicines. Miller said an effective allergy medicine should provide relief after roughly two doses.
In addition to making you miserable, allergies can have more serious complications. They can exacerbate asthma and can lead to secondary infections, such as sinusitis. These can require a doctor's care.
Patients should be careful about continued use of nose spray or eye drops designed to ease allergy symptoms, Miller said. It can cause "rebound congestion," bringing back the symptoms you were trying to get rid of, and more.
If you are plagued by allergies, the best way to find out what you are allergic to and how to handle it is to begin with an allergy skin test, Miller said. The test provides a doctor with the most precise information and can lead to the most appropriate treatment, often allergy shots.
The shots can take several months to begin working, she said, so now would be the time to consider whether your fall allergies warrant extra examination. She said that's the thing about Kentucky. We have four seasons, each with its unique array of allergy causes.
Kentucky weather, she said jokingly, "is the gift that keeps on giving."