Spring has burst upon us seemingly overnight with temperatures shooting into the upper 60s Monday, and that's suddenly bringing misery for those with allergies.

Blame it all on the pollen finding its way into the air as plants, grasses and trees begin to flower.

The long-running winter and the cooler-than-average April kept pollen at bay, but now pollen counts are soaring, said Dr. Gary Berman of Allergy & Asthma Specialists with offices in Plymouth, Minneapolis and Edina.

Pollen counts, which reflect the number of pollen grains landing on a given area during a specified time, have inched into the moderate to high range across most of Minnesota, according to the website Pollen.com.

The higher the values, the worse it feels for allergy sufferers, with watery eyes, runny noses, coughs and itchy throats, Berman said.

"It feels like a permanent cold," he said. "It can impact a lifestyle and work. You feel fatigued and it's hard to look at a computer when you're always having to grab a Kleenex."

Lots of people suffer from allergies, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. With more than 50 million Americans under their curse, allergies are the sixth-leading cause of chronic illness with an annual cost of $18 billion. A vast majority of Americans with allergies are allergic to pollen, according to Pollen.com.

In Minnesota, asthma affects one in 16 children and one in 13 adults. People with asthma need to be especially aware of pollen sources and seasons to prevent an allergy-related asthma attack, the Minnesota Department of Health said.

Pollen counts are expected to be in the medium-high to high category all week as temperatures stay near or above 60 degrees. Berman said expects counts to be in the high range by the end of the week.

It's hard to tell how severe this year's allergy season will be, even with its late onset.

"Ask me in six weeks," Berman said.

But short of a freeze to kill off the pollen, there are a few things sufferers can do to minimize the impact.

First, avoid going outdoors during high pollen times, which is often in the early morning. Keep windows closed and run a dehumidifier, the Minnesota Department of Health suggests.

Berman adds another tip. "This is the time of year Minnesotans like to hang clothes outside. This is not the time of the year to do that."

Vacuuming curtains and rugs and keeping pets inside can also help.

If symptoms last more than a couple weeks, it's a good idea to see a specialist, Berman said.

Tim Harlow • 612-673-7768