There's been plenty of pollen in the air this season, but you could also be allergic to mold spores and not know it. Mold counts have been increasing due to excessive rainfall lately. Chattanooga had nearly 10.5" in April, more than six inches above normal, and we're ahead of schedule for May so far.
Doctor Marc Cromie of the Chattanooga Allergy Clinic says the symptoms are often the same for most people.
"They're both going to present with itchy eyes, sneezing, congestion, those episodes,” says Cromie. “The immune system is reacting to the mold spores in the air just as it does the pollen."
Unlike indoor mold which is easily seen and can cause immediate symptoms, outdoor mold spores are microscopic and reactions to them take longer to show up.
"It's invisible. It's the invisible attacker that's out there causing patients to be miserable," adds Cromie.
A couple years ago Molly Barton, a nurse at the clinic, thought she might be allergic to pollen. She got tested and found out it was much more.
"I just figured it was always the pollen because that's what you hear is pollen. But, I was very allergic to the mold," says Barton.
She had more than the usual symptoms. She started injection treatments and has been enjoying life a lot more ever since.
"It was really bad. I had really bad headaches and I hardly get any headaches anymore. So that's really good," exclaims Barton.
Cromie says if you think you're allergic to pollen or mold you can take an over-the-counter antihistamine like Allegra or Claritin, but then go get tested. An allergist can tailor your treatment based on your exact allergies.
"Allergy shots cover the pollens, they cover the mold, they cover the indoor pets, the dust mites," says Cromie.
To keep indoor mold at bay, Cromie says a dehumidifier usually does the trick. Also, he says late spring/early summer is the best time for teacher and students to get tested so that treatments will be less intense and simply routine by the time the next school year starts.