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Despite the cold, pollen rampant in central NC

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) - With the winter weather this week, you would think that allergies have taken a back seat to the cold. But that hasn't been the case.

Tree pollen is very high and got an early start this year, thanks to a warm February.

"We have had tree pollen out since about a week after Valentine's Day," said Dr. Heather Gutekinst of Allergy Partners of the Triangle. "It's all timing, we had a couple of warm days in February and the trees got ready to start pollenating."

"Pollen exposure can cause a lot of different symptoms for different patients. Some of the more common things are sneezing, runny nose, nasal congestion, itchy watery eyes, post nasal drip and coughing," she said.

With anywhere from twenty to thirty percent of people suffering from allergies, it can seem like it is getting worse in recent years.

Gutekinst has heard the theories.

"There are some theories about being outside and getting dirty, that some people have associated with that, that we are not doing as much of that as we did in the past, and that might create an increase in allergies," she said.

So what should you do when the pollen levels are high?

"When the pollen is peaking, it is worse on dry and windy days, so if you are outside, early evening or early morning, that's when the pollen tends to peak this highest. Coming inside and showering as soon as you've had exposure, if you’re sensitive, can be helpful," the doctor said.

And if you don't mind needles, there is a shot for that. An injection retrains the body's immune system to become resistant to allergens. Brooke White knows this well.

"I've been getting shots for maybe three or four years; it's a lot better know, I don't get the sinus infections," she said.

More importantly, White can enjoy the outdoors nows.

"I always stayed away from grass. If someone was cutting the grass, that was a major problem," she said. "Now it really doesn't bother me. I could go out hiking and I'm fine."

She claims, however, that she still can't help her husband cut the grass.

"I still don't know how," she laughed, "and that's no accident!"

Tree pollen peaks in the spring and weed season takes over for the summer. Grasses are around all season long.

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