Earlier Springs Heighten Allergy Misery in East Tennessee

In the heart of South Knoxville sits one of eight Allergy and Asthma Affiliates clinics scattered across Tennessee. Allergist and immunologist Dr. Trent Ellenburg is already being kept busy at his family-owned business, where patients have started coming in suffering from spring allergy symptoms.

“As we’re seeing warmer, milder weather, and lots of rain, we do see earlier seasons that are occuring in our region,” Ellenburg said. “Patients have longer to be exposed, but also the pollen they are being exposed to is actually stronger.”

For residents of Knoxville, battling the springtime effects of pollen has long been routine — it’s ranked as one of the most challenging U.S. cities in which to live for seasonal allergy sufferers. And the effects of heat-trapping pollution in the atmosphere are making their misery worse.

“We really need to realize that our climate directly and indirectly impacts many patients,” said Dr. Dipa Sheth, an allergist at the D.C. Veterans Affairs Medical Center. “We’re going to see more people being sensitized to allergens. And we’re going to see more of a swing in the severity.”

The impacts of earlier and more potent pollen seasons aren’t limited to classic hay fever symptoms — such as sneezing, congestion, itchy eyes and skin. They can also result in severe reactions, especially for the 13 percent of Knox County residents who’ve reported being diagnosed with asthma.

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