PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Sneezing, hacking, tissue grabbing, it is allergy season with a vengeance!

“Not only are they feeling it, they’re probably seeing it,” says allergist and immunologist Dr. Deborah Gentile, “If you were outdoors over the weekend you probably saw that yellow film appearing over everything outside. We’re having a rough season.”

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Dr. Gentile says normally in Western Pennsylvania we have a period of tree pollen followed by grass and ragweed pollen.

“Right now they run right into each other,” she said. “So in a few weeks we’ll start we’ll still have trees pollinating but we’ll also have the grasses, so you really get a double whammy there.”

Suffering from allergies is a special kind of agony.

“People are miserable, they’re congested, they’re sneezing, their eyes might be bothering them, they’re having trouble sleeping, they’re not performing well at work, or at school,” Dr. Gentile explains. “You know, some of these kids have trouble participating in sports, you know, they go outside and tree pollen makes their eyes swell up. So it does have a significant impact is not really a trivial problem.”

Over-the-counter antihistamines are the first line of defense but Dr. Gentile says if they don’t provide the relief you may need to see a specialist for something a bit stronger.

As for avoiding the pollen in the first place, Dr. Gentile says ironically it’s that mask the CDC just said you don’t need to wear outdoors to prevent COVID.

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“The surgical face mask actually helps filter out almost all of the pollens the pollens are slightly bigger than their lower filtration level,” she says. “Molds, many of the molds, will be fully filtered out with the surgical mask, and they definitely aren’t filtered out with the, you know, an N-95.

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To that point, Dr. Gentile says not all face coverings provide the protection you need.

“I would stick with the surgical mask or the N-95, I’m not convinced that the Gators just like they don’t protect for COVID are probably not going to protect the pollen,” she says.

Dr. Gentile emphasizes the mask needs to be clean and handled carefully when you come indoors.

“Now that’s trapped the pollen, if you’d come into the house and you’re touching it and, you know, throwing it away and then your hands aren’t washed and you touch your face or your nose, you’re going to, you know, redistribute that pollen right back on you,” she says.

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Her suggestion – if it’s a surgical mask use it and lose it, and if it’s cloth – wash after every use.