A weather phenomenon produced when warm water from the western Pacific Ocean flows eastward, this year’s El Ni¤o has contributed to the recent mild temperatures and an early coming of the spring season. Although warmer days are nice, this complex weather pattern is expected to contribute to a miserable allergy season.
As a result of winter temperatures arriving much later than usual, and without consistent freezing temperatures, tree and plant life remained active much longer than usual this year. This unusual weather pattern will continue to have an impact on spring’s pollen counts, which are ultimately affected by the moisture and temperatures during the winter months.1
El Ni¤o’s Impact
Another downside to having an overall warmer winter is that without a weed-killing freeze, high-allergen plants such as ragweed will continue sending pollen into the air. Similarly, mold spores, which typically go dormant in colder temperatures, will further contribute to worsening allergies.2
Additionally, because El Ni¤o has caused a wet winter, rather than a snowy one, trees and plants have maintained healthy root systems. This means that as spring approaches, these roots are also ready to release pollen earlier than normal.3
“Certain trees are blooming that shouldn’t be, and instead of tree A in April and tree B in May, they are all blooming at once possibly in March,” warned Murray Grossan, MD, an ear, nose, and throat specialist with Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. “If you kept a careful Pollen Calendar last year, it is of little use today. Even PollenCalendar.com is not keeping up.”
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Influential Climate Change
Across North America, climate change is affecting the release of pollen. This global warming has impacted both the period of the year when allergies are at their worse and the duration of pollen release.
According to FightTheCauseOfAllergy.org, an online resource for allergy information, as global temperature and CO2 levels rise, plant pollination cycles have become longer and more intense. Increasing temperatures have expanded the pollen season, changing the botanic landscape and increasing the distribution of allergenic plants across a wider geographic area.4
These environmental changes have further worsened allergies by creating better suited growing conditions for grasses and weeds-the fastest growing and most adaptable plants. The warm temperatures and high CO2 levels present the ideal growing conditions for these plants, and increase the success of their growth and survival.
The most common symptoms of allergies include wheezing, itchy eyes, nasal congestion and nasal pressure. Runny noses, sneezing, sinus and respiratory infections may also occur. To combat these problems, allergy sufferers can take a number of preventive measures.
“If an individual knows that they have allergies, they should start their allergy medications before the onset of allergy season to prevent symptoms; once allergy-induced inflammation has occurred, it is much harder to control,” explained Tracy Kruzick, MD, an allergist-immunologist in Vienna, Va.
Other precautionary measures include wearing a filter mask outdoors to keep pollen out of the nose and mouth, changing clothes after a long period of being outside and avoidance of sleeping with pets that spend time outdoors. Inside the home, removing all carpets and making small adjustments like always leaving shoes by the door can stop allergens from filling the air.
“Make sure to use good HEPA filters and change them regularly. If experiencing allergy symptoms like itchy eyes/nose, sneezing, runny nose and nasal congestion, stay indoors and close the windows and doors to your house, and also close the window in cars while driving,” recommended Allis H. Cho, MD, an otolaryngologist at Texas Health Arlington Memorial in Arlington, Texas. “If symptoms are not getting better with medications, see your doctor about possibly getting a steroid shot or getting an allergy test.
By following these simple strategies, allergy sufferers can ease their transition into the spring. For a better idea of day-to-day allergen rankings, including seasonal tree pollens, grasses, weeds, and outdoor molds, visit the National Allergy Bureau’s website.5
1. Hudson Allergy. El Ni¤o – What does it mean for allergy season? http://goo.gl/x2zfri
2. Today. Warm wet winter may prolong allergy season. http://goo.gl/m75mlZ
3. The Weather Channel. The Truth About the 2016 Spring Allergy Season… https://goo.gl/OaBzhV
4. FightTheCauseOfAllergy.org. Climate Change and Allergy. http://goo.gl/dZP8zM
5. American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. National Allergy Bureau. http://goo.gl/YGqqQR
Lindsey Nolen is a staff writer. Contact: email@example.com.