After a long, cold winter it seems spring has finally arrived — along with a burst of pollen that's causing sneezing, runny noses and itchy, watery eyes.

An Ottawa pharmacist says allergy season is particularly bad this year.

"It almost seems like their symptoms are worse this year than normal," says Zenah Surani, associate owner of Glebe Apothecary. "People are just really feeling run-down and tired."

Experts say a delayed spring is causing the problem, as trees that would normally bloom sometime between March and June are releasing their pollen all at once.


Dr. Seema Khan is an allergy specialist. (CBC)

"There's so much moisture still on the ground. In some areas there's still snow," said allergy specialist Dr. Seeman Khan. "If  we start to get a lot of warmer, sunny, breezy days, what's going to happen is we're going to have a shorter tree season but it's going to be a very intense tree season."

Khan said rain could bring relief to those allergic to pollen but it could make things worse for those allergic to mould.

"The rain keeps the pollen on the ground, so that's good news for the tree-pollen sufferers but not so good for the mould sufferers," Khan said.

Length of allergy season 'unpredictable'

Surani says the good news is that there are a range of medications that can ease allergy symptoms — everything from anti-histamines, decongestants, eye drops and saline rinses. 

 "I just encourage people to come out, talk to their pharmacist and we can recommend the best product for them," Surani said.

Colleen Clark says she takes an over-the-counter medication once a day to manage her tree-pollen allergy.

"You can close the window but the fresh air is so nice this time of year so I suffer through a bit," she said. "I get itchy, watery eyes, sore throat, sneezing."

Surani said it's hard to pinpoint how long allergy season will last.

"The weather is really unpredictable, so it's hard to say when it's going to end," Surani said.

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