Weather brings sun, allergens to the Bay

ForBrian Sawyer, San Francisco’s most beautiful days are his worst.

This week’s warm weather and rising pollen counts have caused him — and thousands of Bay Area allergy sufferers like him — to be seized by watery eyes and fits of uncontrollable sneezing.

“It started about three days ago, out of nowhere,” Sawyer said Tuesday. “I woke up and had a runny nose and scratchy throat.”

The worst may be ahead of him, experts say.

Pollen levels are projected to rise into the “high” category, 10.2 on a 12-point scale, today before falling off later in the week, according to San Francisco pollen forecasts on www.pollen.com.

“Pollen counts are projected to peak [today],” said Krista Ward, an asthma advocacy coordinator for Breathe California of the Bay Area.

Sawyer, a San Francisco resident, finds himself stocking up each allergy season on over-the-counter medications such as Benadryl. He has also tried homeopathic medicines, but not much has helped.

“I’m willing to try anything at this point,” he said.

But the inconvenience of fighting through a sneezing episode as he cruises down U.S. Highway 101 is worth it when it comes to enjoying the Bay Area’s comparatively pleasant weather in the long run, he said.

Sawyer, who works in communications administration for Breathe California, has lived in various parts of The City over the last seven years and says each neighborhood triggers different allergy reactions.

This is the time of year when tree and grass pollen are nearing their highest levels, which explains why new patient appointments at her practice are already booked into June, said Dr. Barbara Conner-Andersen, an allergist at Peninsula Allergy Associates in Daly City and Burlingame.

“It’s always worse on windy days,” Conner-Andersen said. Warmer weather also plays a factor, with the sun stimulating plant growth and thereby increasing pollination, she said.

As many as 50 million people in the United States have allergies, nearly 36 million of whom have hay fever, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.

For most allergy sufferers, over-the-counter medication, eye drops and nasal sprays suffice as a temporary remedy, but for those with severe reactions Conner-Andersen recommends visiting an allergist and being tested to determine the cause.

Closing home and car windows and running the air conditioner, which acts as a filter, can make a difference — although, Conner-Andersen said, you might regret not being able to enjoy the sunshine.

ecarpenter@examiner.com

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