With the arrival of March, spring allergy season is officially underway. You have likely noticed the first of the trees starting to green up; maple, red cedar, and a few others are typically the first to start blooming, sometimes as early as the end of February in Nashville.

Every year allergists are asked how this season compares to prior years. I have done many local news interviews over the years, that typically go something like this:

News anchor: "How bad is the pollen season this year?" (looking at me hopefully)

Me: "It's bad!"

News anchor: (nodding) "Back to you Jim."

The better answer is, it depends (the local news doesn't really like to lead with "it depends--story at 10"). So far, this appears to be a somewhat warm, early spring. Whether that means the trees will flower and continue to flower vigorously because of warm weather, or whether a late cold snap might kill off their early growth and lead to a light tree pollen season because they started growing too early, remains to be seen. Also, all the rain we've had tends to lower pollen counts by removing pollen grains from the air, but conversely, a good moist spring may favor vigorous tree, grass, and weed growth. Additionally, for other patients who are mold allergic, all the moisture will favor mold activity, and hard rains can stir mold and other allergens from the ground into the air (so called "thunderstorm asthma," named for the phenomenon of allergic asthmatic patients reacting following storms). Finally, the spring weather itself (e.g. changing temperature and moisture levels) can act as an irritant trigger, causing nasal symptoms in many patients.

As all of this suggests, at the end of the day, what matters is what you are allergic to, and whether it ends up in your nose. If you usually have a bad spring with allergies or sinus issues, we can help. Getting allergy tested to determine your triggers, and starting an appropriate treatment plan (which may include medications chosen based on your triggers, avoidance measures, and for highly allergic patients, desensitization with allergy shots) can make all the difference. The local news may not like it, but the goal is for anyone asked how their spring allergy season is going to be able to say, "No big deal!"