Allergy season has hit the High Plains early with a watery-eyed vengeance, according to officials.
The annual onslaught of pollen and dust is about a month early.
Dr. Alan Boyar, Roswell allergist, said the culprits are early blooming juniper, cedar and mulberry trees and of course the eastern New Mexico weather.
"The hot, dry weather makes it difficult to determine if allergy symptoms are primarily pollen or dust related," Boyar said.
Boyar explained the offending trees aren't making any more pollen than usual, they're just making it earlier. "The hot, dry weather is causing them to bloom earlier, making pollen counts high for this time of year, but they're pretty normal overall," Boyar said.
Data from Albuquerque's air quality division website shows broad seasonal variances in pollen levels from year to year. Juniper trees bloomed as early as Feb. 23 in 2009 and as late as April 3 in 2007.
Pollen from the trees, which thrive in New Mexico's mountainous regions, can easily travel more than 100 miles on a windy day, exposing most of the state to their irritating effects, according to the New Mexico Allergy Society.
Boyar said the high pollen counts extend from the New Mexico Sacramento mountains across Arizona and into east Texas.
Local pollen levels, which have been in the high range all week, jumped to more than 11,000 grains of pollen per cubic meter on Tuesday, according to pollen.com. Boyar said pollen counts are not noteworthy until they reach 15,000 grains per cubic meter.
According to Albuquerque air quality official Dan Gates, "It's no worse than it usually is."
Gates tracks pollen counts in the Albuquerque area by species to alert allergy sufferers to specific threats.
"We've seen mulberry pollen counts in the 10,000 range," Gates said. "It's not a problem unless you have an allergy to it."
Health officials say allergy sufferers experiencing watery eyes, sneezing, coughing and sniffles are, nevertheless, flocking to clinics for medical attention.
"I would liken it to a plague," said Daniel Otero, a physician assistant at Trinity Family Medicine.
Officials at Clovis immunologist Dr. Nicholas Rowley's office said, "It's really bad. We're staying really busy."
The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America said more than 40 million Americans have nasal allergies, known as hay fever, or rhinitis.
Otero advised allergy sufferers to stay well hydrated and indicated there are natural as well as pharmaceutical aids for allergies. "Anyone experiencing breathing problems should seek immediate medical attention," Otero said. "Seasonal allergens can exacerbate asthma conditions."
Due to the lack of moisture and the hot dry weather, Boyar said "It's going to be a horrible summer for allergies."
Quick allergy facts
• Number of people in the U.S. with allergy symptoms: One in five.
• Number of people in the U.S. who test positive for one or more allergies: 55 percent.
• Ranking of allergies in U.S. among other chronic diseases: Fifth.
• Number of work days lost each year because of allergies: 4 million.
Motherearthnews.com homeopathic allergy remedies:
• Neti pot — The neti pot, which has been used in India for thousands of years, acts as a homemade nasal spray, utilizing a small pot shaped like Aladdin's lamp and non-iodized salt water to flush sinuses.
• Stinging nettle — Stinging nettle is a common weed that acts as an antihistamine by blocking the body's ability to produce histamine. The most popular form is a capsule filled with dried crushed plant leaves.
• Foods — Horseradish, chili pepper and hot mustard all act as temporary decongestants. Allergy fighting foods include cold water fish, walnuts and flaxseed oil, which are rich in omega 3's and reduce inflammation.