Allergy Season Will Be Rough In NEPA

March 28, 2019

Allergy sufferers in Northeast Pennsylvania could have a rough road ahead.

The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton metro jumped to eighth place in the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America’s 2019 Spring Allergy Capitals list, suggesting conditions are primed for a few itchy months of bleary-eyed sneezing fits.

Using the most recently available 12 months of data, the foundation ranks the top 100 most populous regions in the continental U.S. by how much people with allergies are projected to suffer.

In 2018, the local metro ranked 47th. Its leap of 39 positions to the top 10 marks the most dramatic shift among the rankings.

Most regions changed rank, going up or down by an average of about seven positions.

McAllen, Texas, held its place as the No. 1 worst place for people with allergies. Likewise, Denver, Colorado; Provo, Utah; and Boise, Idaho held their positions as the best three communities for allergy sufferers.

“We’re looking at tree pollen from last spring, and it was just extremely high in Scranton,” said foundation spokeswoman Angel Waldron.

Numbers are based on three factors:

• Pollen, mostly from trees, which cast off large volumes this time of year.

• Medication usage.

• The number of board-certified allergists practicing in the region.

Northeast Pennsylvania has a notably low number of doctors who carry those credentials. Other specialists — including ear, nose and throat doctors — can diagnose and treat allergies, but were not considered when tabulating the rankings.


“If a town doesn’t have enough allergists to handle the population of people who need medical treatment, then they rank higher on our list,” Waldron said. “We like to see one allergist per 1,000 patients.”

Whether the conditions live up to the region’s new rank remains to be seen because of the one key factor in deciding how pollen behaves.

“We are just out of the cold weather,” said Dr. Raymond Khoudary, a board-certified allergist in Plains Twp. “I wish I could give you a good prediction, but we have an element that is out of anyone’s control, which is the weather.”

A long stretch of warm days means symptoms intensify for a shorter time span. If the temperatures bounce between cold and warm, symptoms will be less intense, but last longer.

Spring allergy sufferers might feel itchy, watery eyes. Clear mucous might run from their noses. They might feel unscratchable itching in the backs of their throats and ears. Some eczema patients might get flare-ups.

Those with asthma might wheeze or feel their breath shorten.

As the temperatures warm, now is the best time to start taking over-the-counter allergy medicine or prescription antihistamines, said Dr. Keith Pritchyk, an ear, nose and throat doctor with the Scranton-based multispecialty medical group Delta Medix.

“Sooner than later,” he said. “If you take the medication before the symptoms come, you’re much better off.”

People with the most severe cases might find relief in immunotherapy, when doctors use injections to build the body’s own immunities against allergens. That kind of treatment, however, requires testing and time to take effect.

“Too late for this year,” Pritchyk said. “You want to start that several months before your bad season.”

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