Irma debris leading to worsening allergy symptoms


SARASOTA- Large piles of debris left from Hurricane Irma will take weeks to collect, and it’s leading to some negative health effects for Suncoast Residents.

Hurricane Irma brought wind, rain, and flooding, and now weeks later… allergies.

“A lot of fallen branches, leaves around homes and just around the area can lead to increased mold growth,”Allergist Dr. Jennifer Fergeson said. “And also the water damage leading to increased pollen counts as well, so everything kind of is a snowball effect.”

Dr. Fergeson with Windom Allergy, asthma and sinus says seasonal allergy symptoms are hitting patients earlier.

“In the fall,” Fergeson said. “It’s our weeds season and because of the rain, that pollen is going to be more of a problem, so yes, we’re seeing more symptoms this time of year because of that.”

Rapidly spreading weeds and an increase in mold spores growing in piles of debris are sending more allergy and asthma patients to the doctor’s office.

“A lot of patients with known asthma,” Fergeson said. “And allergic symptoms, nasal symptoms, eye symptoms come in with worsening symptoms, come in with worsening symptoms. And those that have never had diagnosed allergies coming in with new symptoms, these new complaints.”

Dr. Fergeson says allergy and asthma patients should use their prescribed medicine routinely. And for adults and kids seeing minor symptoms for the first time, there are plenty of over the counter options.

“First line for a lot of the nasal symptoms is the nasal spray,” Fergeson said. “A lot of them are over the counter now, a lot of our internasal sprays like flonaise, nasonex, they’re all out there, or anti-histamines work really well for those kids.”

And if your symptoms continue to get worse, go see your doctor.

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Samantha Sonner
Multimedia Journalist Samantha Sonner comes to the Suncoast from Las Cruces, New Mexico, where she worked as a reporter and host for KRWG TV/FM reporting on local politics, immigration, and border issues. Samantha grew up on Long Island, New York. She received her Bachelor of Science in Broadcast and Digital Journalism from Syracuse University. At Syracuse, she worked at WAER, the campus NPR station and interned at television stations in Central New York. Samantha is excited for the Florida Sunshine, and to be living so close to fantastic beaches. Feel free to follow her on Facebook and Twitter for story updates and news, or to send her story tips and ideas. You can also email her at