Newswise — STRATFORD, NJ – For large sections of the country, the mild winter weather has meant that March did not come in like a lion this year.

For most people, those warmer winter temperatures have meant a break from home heating bills and a chance to get an early start on outdoor activities. But those same warmer temperatures mean something else for the millions of Americans who suffer from the sneezing, runny nose, watery eyes and scratchy throats of seasonal allergies.

“For weeks, I’ve had patients arrive in my office with complaints of allergy symptoms,” said Dr. Jennifer Caudle a family physician with Rowan University’s School of Osteopathic Medicine. Tree pollen and mold are the primary allergens during the springtime ‘sneezing season.’ The mild winter means that mold spores in the environment could continue to grow and spread rather than go dormant. And now, trees are starting to bloom across much of the country, in some cases weeks before the time when this normally occurs.

“The good news is that only a relatively small number of tree species produce pollen that can cause an allergic reaction,” Dr. Caudle said. “The bad news is that trees are prolific pollinators and their pollen is light enough to travel many miles on the breeze. So, regardless of where you live, you could be affected.”

Dr. Caudle explained that when a person inhales an allergen, such as tree pollen, the body releases histamines, the chemicals that cause the allergic reactions of nasal swelling, itchy eyes, scratchy throats and excess mucus production.

“Over-the-counter allergy medicines may be enough to control symptoms and it’s wise to take them at the first signs of allergies- actually, taking them BEFORE allergies start is best,” she said. “These medications are often antihistamines that work by blocking the production of the histamines that cause allergy symptoms. There are also intranasal steroids that are very effective, among other medications”

However, Dr. Caudle cautioned that while medications work well, prevention is key:

• Stay inside during the early morning when trees release pollen.• Keep the windows of your house and car closed and remember to close your car’s fresh air vent, too. • Wash your hair after coming in from outside, particularly in the evening to keep pollen off your pillows.• Don’t allow pets that have been outside to sleep on your bed. • Take off your shoes when you enter the house to avoid spreading pollen inside. • Don’t hang clothes outside to dry. • Change filters frequently on your heating and air conditioning system.• Vacuum carpets at least twice a week.

Dr. Caudle also noted that seasonal allergies could suddenly begin appearing in people who have never been bothered by allergies in the past.

“Our bodies change over time, so some people will actually develop allergies later in life,” she said. “And others, whose symptoms in the past have been barely noticeable, could suddenly experience more severe symptoms during prolonged or heavy allergy seasons. If that happens, talk to your physician about a treatment plan to help manage your symptoms. And, please remember to seek immediate medical attention anytime your experience wheezing, rapid breathing or any difficulty in breathing.”

About Rowan UniversityRowan University offers bachelor’s through doctoral programs to 17,360 students through its campuses in Glassboro, Camden and Stratford, New Jersey. In the past four years, Rowan opened the Camden-based Cooper Medical School of Rowan University and incorporated the School of Osteopathic Medicine and the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, making Rowan only the second university in the nation to grant both M.D. and D.O. medical degrees. Rowan is collaborating with Rutgers-Camden to create degree programs in a College of Health Sciences in the City of Camden to meet the growing need for health professionals and contribute to the well-being and economic development of the region. One of only three state-designated public research institutions in New Jersey, Rowan comprises the William G. Rohrer College of Business; the Henry M. Rowan College of Engineering; the colleges of Communication & Creative Arts; Education; Humanities & Social Sciences; Performing Arts; and Science & Mathematics; the School of Health Professions; the School of Earth & Environment; and the Division of Global Learning & Partnerships, as well as the medical schools.