Feeling allergy symptoms? Blame Hurricane Irma, some doctors say



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Piles of yard debris like this one from Hurricane Irma can become laden with mold and other environmental triggers and can “heighten allergic symptoms,” said Dr. Farzanna S. Haffizulla, assistant dean for community and global health at Nova Southeastern University in South Florida. [SCOTT KEELER | Times]

Allergies out of whack?

You can blame Hurricane Irma for that. Well, kind of.

As many continue to wait for cleanup crews to haul away the sopping piles of withering tree debris in front of their houses from Irma, plenty of people across Tampa Bay are sniffling and coughing more than they were before the hurricane passed, narrowly sparing the region from the worst of its wrath.

“I’ve been telling my patients that it seems like Irma brought the allergy season on a little earlier,” said Dr. Rachel Dawkins, a pediatrician at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg. “We usually see the peak of it in the fall at the end of October and into November, when the trees start shedding their leaves. But right now we have a lot of trees on the ground, which means we have a lot of pollen on the ground, and there’s an uptick of mold from standing water.”

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Autumn is the second-worst time of year for allergic reactions in Florida, following the spring blooming season, said Dr. Richard Lockey, a Joy McCann Culverhouse Chair in allergy and immunology at the University of South Florida’s College of Medicine. Ragweed and mold are the most common sources of allergies in the fall weather, though prolonged grass and pollen often play a role at the end of summer as the season changes.

“We live in a sub-tropical climate, which means we have mold all year round and…