The season of spring allergy is starting early in several parts of the United States this year, with pollen increasing about a month sooner than usual in certain areas. Current pollen counts are highest in Baltimore, Dallas, Cincinnati, Washington D.C., Las Vegas and parts of Pennsylvania and North Carolina, according to Weather.com.
Experts say warmer temperatures due to climate change could be one of the causes triggering pollen counts earlier than ever and recommend treatment before symptoms of the allergy become severe.
“We had a number of days in January where we had high tree pollen counts, where we’d never seen that in the past. We’ve recorded this for well over 50 years and we never see tree pollens until February,” said Dr. Anthony Montanaro about the situation in Oregon this year, as reported by CBS News. He is the head of the Division of Allergy and Clinical Immunology at Oregon Health & Science University.
Climate change plays a big role in increased pollen counts
Montanaro pointed out that there is no doubt that people across the country are having year-round symptoms for the first time. He commented that, in this year’s wintertime, his friends in Atlanta told him they were having the highest pollen counts they had ever seen.
The common symptoms ahead of the typical spring pollen season include drippy eyes, more sniffles and asthma-related allergy signs, according to Montanaro. He affirmed that climate change is one of the causes of the allergies, as well as an area’s local topography and weather. The number of trees and other plants across the area can be part of what is driving more symptoms, too.
Pollen-related allergies are usually divided up by season. For instance, spring is typically tree pollen time, whereas late spring and summer are known for more grass and flower pollens. Ragweed and other kinds of plants produce pollen by fall. But higher temperatures year round are changing pollen patterns and allergists are witnessing changes in patients’ needs.
As explained by the doctor, warmer temperatures plus windier conditions spread pollens and help them travel. Higher air temperature favors aerosolization of pollen, he said, and it ends up being in the air rather than just in the plants.
Moreover, rainfall also increases pollen counts as it washes the pollen away and symptoms are temporarily relieved but then trees grow and produce more pollen in the long term. Dr. Blanka Kaplan said the level of pollen depends on many different factors. She works at Northwell Health in Great Neck, New York, where she specializes in pediatric and adult allergy, asthma and clinical immunology.
Doctors recommend early treatment to prevent allergies
Treatment of pollen allergies is most effective when it is done before all the symptoms appear, according to Dr. Hey Chong, who is an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Pittsburgh, as well as an allergist/immunologist at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.
He advised patients to be aware of pollen counts in their area and not to wait for all the symptoms before taking medications. Chong said over-the-counter nasal steroid sprays are highly effective to treat stuffy noses due to allergies and recommends starting them one to two weeks before the symptoms appear.
Source: CBS News