Allergy sufferers seeing more symptoms in SoCal's wet winter

February's rainy and cold weather is wreaking havoc on allergy patients.

If you find yourself sneezing or waking up with a stuffy nose - you're definitely not alone.

Rocio Veliz, for one, is suffering through the winter with what feels like spring allergies.

"My eyes get really watery, they get itchy," she said. "It's uncomfortable during the day."

Colds temps are sending many patients into Dr. Sonal Patel's office. We don't see it, but pollen is still in the air and the wet weather is moving it closer to your nose.

"With the thunderstorms because of the wetness and the moisture it's weighing down some of that pollen," said Patel, with Adventist Health. "It might be at a lower level than you see."

If you don't have pollen allergies, Patel says wintry conditions can still cause these symptoms: Runny, stuffy nose, itchy watery eyes and nasal congestion.

The usual culprit is non-allergic rhinitis.

Patients with it often have airways more sensitive to cold. It can often happen when a person moves from a warm, heated room to a room with cold air. The transition can be challenging for the nose.

Other causes can be a virus or an irritant like a strong odor.

Though many of the symptoms of hay fever and non-allergic rhinitis are the same, the treatment is not.

People with non-allergic rhinitis are not going to respond to antihistamines

"Sometimes that's a clue to me when patients tell me 'Oh I have taken Claritin or an antihistamine over the counter and it wasn't helpful to me,' then I know your problem isn't allergies because if it was it should have been helpful," Patel said.

For non-allergic rhinitis she recommends nasal irrigation and sprays to relieve inflammation. But don't self diagnose. Patel strongly urges people to see a doctor.

Rocio's advice: Stay indoors, warm and dry.

Also remember that cold air can trigger asthma attacks. Increased cooling in the airway can trigger swelling. That means if you're sensitive, don't exert yourself in the cold.
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