York has officially overcome an abominable winter, but allergy sufferers have another battle coming up.

With the start of spring, trees are beginning to pollinate and trigger the exhausting misery of runny noses, itchy eyes and countless sneezes.

And the snowy winter could make this season even more intense, as plants flourish in the moisturized ground, allergists say.

The AccuWeather.com long-range forecast team expects chilly temperatures to linger a while longer in the Northeast, which could delay the start of major allergy symptoms.

But local doctors say the time to treat symptoms is now — before they get worse.

AccuWeather predicts spring allergies to peak in our area around May 21.
AccuWeather predicts spring allergies to peak in our area around May 21.

This season: This spring's allergy season has already begun: About a week ago, maple trees started pollinating, said Dr. Amy Auerbach, an allergist at Allergy & Asthma Consultants in Spring Garden Township.

The cold, snowy winter will probably affect this allergy season, as everything will be blooming a bit later, she said. Auerbach predicts a shortened but more intense spring allergy season.

"More tree pollens will be out at the same time," she said.

And with tree season peaking in about four weeks, the brunt of allergies is coming very soon, said Dr. Michelle Weiss, a provider at the Family Center for Allergy and Asthma in York Township.

"It takes all the pleasure out of the beautiful weather," she said.

Between March and June, trees pollinate, and millions and millions of little pollen grains get carried by wind and float from Washington, D.C., to Philadelphia and affect us along the way, Weiss said. From May through August, grass also pollinates and that pollen can be carried through the air, she said.

With all the snowfall this winter, the soil is very moisturized, and rough winters usually precede allergy-filled springs, Weiss said.

"Usually we do have a greater growth of plants, and the pollen count is usually more vigorous," she said. "It's very bittersweet."

Spring also brings another allergen: mold. With moist soil and a rough winter, we can expect a higher mold count, as well, Weiss said.

Treatment: Allergy symptoms range from mild to very severe, with some people's eyes becoming swollen shut, Auerbach said, and it's important to treat them before they get to that point.

"People should definitely try to take care of it. If you know what you're allergic to, it makes sense to start treatment as soon as you can," she said.

For an itchy, runny nose, Auerbach recommends oral antihistamines, nasal steroids or a combination of the two.

And eye drops can help soothe eye symptoms, which tend to be a problem in the spring more than any other time of year, she said.

For people who really suffer, allergy shots that retrain the immune system are an option, Auerbach said.

Saline sprays and irrigation systems also help to flush nasal and sinus areas so you don't have pollen sitting in there causing an immune response, Weiss said.

But it's important to follow directions and use distilled water in an irrigation device like a Neti pot, she said, as tap water can cause fungal issues.

Whatever treatment an individual decides to use, it's important to start early and be consistent, as it's easier to maintain goodness than to heal from swelling and congestion, Weiss said.

"People should demand to be able to enjoy their spring — and if they can't do it, they should seek help," she said.

— Reach Mollie Durkin at mdurkin@yorkdispatch.com.