Ah, smell the orange blossoms hanging in the air like a lovely swath of heaven.
But for allergy sufferers, that fragrance — indicating the onset of pollen season — can smell like hell.
On Monday, the Web site Pollen.com gave the Valley one of the highest pollen counts in the country, coinciding with the onslaught of watery eyes, scratchy skin and drippy noses crowding local doctors’ offices.
Allergy season is here, but the worst is yet to come, said Scottsdale allergist Dr. Ronald Jorgensen.
"We’ve seen a pretty big surge of patients having allergy problems" in recent weeks, said Jorgensen, who works for Arizona Asthma and Allergy Institute, which has offices in Scottsdale and Glendale.
Jorgensen predicts peak allergy season won’t hit until April and the season will linger until as late as June because recent rains fueled the blooming.
Locally and nationwide, environmental changes are causing increasing numbers of people to suffer from allergies, Jorgensen said. Changes in the drug market mean there are more treatment options than ever.
Pollen.com gave the Valley an 11.1 pollen count on a 12-point scale Monday. Counts are projected to rise to 11.8 by Thursday.
Those springtime blossoms signal bad news to lifetime allergy sufferer Leona Quintana.
"I like it being sunny and warm, but I don’t like the blooming trees because that’s what gets me sick," said Quintana, 34, who works in Tempe and recently moved from Gilbert to Surprise.
Nationwide, about 20 percent of people suffer from allergies, according to the American Academy of Asthma, Allergy and Immunology. In Arizona, about 25 percent of the population suffers from allergies, Jorgensen said.
The Valley is a vortex of ideal conditions for creating allergies, Jorgensen said. The area has lots of pollution, lots of construction that kicks dust into the air, and increasing numbers of new plants being imported to the area — which challenge the body to build up resistance to their pollens.
Arizona has another thing going against it: Its long history as a haven for allergy and asthma sufferers has created a gene pool predisposed toward those conditions.
"A larger population of allergy suffers has grown up here and is passing that trait on to their children," Jorgensen said.
When seeking medication, keep the following in mind:
• Most over-the-counter antihistamines have side effects. Consider seeing your doctor for the newest prescription remedies.
• When choosing a drugstore medicine, read the box carefully, making sure your symptoms are covered.
• Choose nasal salines over other nasal sprays, most of which are addictive.
• People with serious allergies, for whom drugstore remedies don’t work, should see a doctor for long-term solutions.
Scottsdale allergist Dr. Michael Manning suggests the following to keep the seasonal sneezes away:
• Close the windows and run the air conditioning.
• If your allergies flare up while you’re outside, go home, take a shower and leave your clothes outside.
For a daily pollen count check out www.pollen.com