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A survey backs what you may be feeling: Yes, it's a bad allergy season

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A recent study from the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America ranks seven Florida counties among the top 20 "allergy capitals" across the country.

The weather is warm, trees and flowers are blooming, and pollen counts continue to be high throughout Florida.

A recent study from the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America shows just how bad it is this season.

In a ranking of the top 20 "allergy capitals" across the country, Florida is home to seven of them. Sarasota leads in sixth place followed by Cape Coral, Orlando, Miami, Lakeland, Palm Beach and Tampa.

Intense allergies are a result of high pollen levels. Pollen can be released into the air from many different sources such as flowers and grass, but this time of year, it is coming from the trees.

"They pollinate and put trillions and trillions of particles into the air," says Dr. Richard Lockey, chief of the University of South Florida Health Morsani College of Medicine Division of Allergy & Immunology. "So they bloom one after the other and they cause an epidemic of problems until mid-March and even into May"

Lockey estimates that there are upwards of 6,000 particles of pollen per cubic meter of air in the Sunshine State. He says that most states in the northeastern U.S. consider 300 particles to be a big deal, while most people with allergies can feel symptoms at just 10 particles.

For those with a higher sensitivity to pollen, he recommends staying indoors and running the air conditioner as much as possible.

Allergies may cause symptoms like itchy eyes, or a runny nose, but are only life-threatening to individuals with severe respiratory problems.

If the symptoms are more than you can handle, Lockey suggests any of the over-the-counter allergy medications. Individuals with asthma are urged to see a doctor before spending long periods of time in high pollen concentration areas.

Higher levels of pollen in Florida this year are likely a result of the state's current drought conditions.

Lockey said, "When the rain comes and washes pollen out of the air, the cars get cleaned off and it washes into the drains. This year we've had no rain at all, so the pollen has been able to accumulate, the wind comes along and blows it around again."

Luckily, allergy season should come to a close in the coming months. Officials believe that people will start feeling relief as soon as April 15 and will be over in time for summer.

Copyright 2023 WUSF 89.7

Thomas Ouellette