experts are predicting that spring of 2012 has the potential to be the worst
allergy season in 10 years. Because of a relatively mild winter nationwide, an
early allergy season has developed causing many allergy sufferers to begin
taking medications earlier than normal.
to weather experts, nationally, January this year was almost 6 degrees warmer
than normal. The typical overall national temperature for January is 30.8
degrees F. However this year it was 36.3 degrees F causing many plants
including weeds to begin blooming ahead of Mother Nature’s normal schedule and
thereby give birth to an early allergy season.
to a national news report interview of Dr. Stanley Fineman, President of the
American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI), last year pollen
counts were in the single digits and usually don’t begin to pick up until after
February 20. However, this year pollen counts jumped up right after Ground
Hogs’ Day on February 2nd with pollen counts some days reaching as high as 250.
has been a significantly temperate winter and when we see that, in the United
States, we expect that the spring season is going to be very different than
what we usually experience,” says Allergist Janna Tuck, MD, an ACAAI board
member. “Pollen season is going to occur early, so we will see that the spring
tree season will start early and as a general rule the pollen counts will be
higher—so patients who are allergic and have spring problems will probably have
more problems [this year].”
Tuck explains that it’s not so much that the trees will necessarily bloom
earlier since blooming is largely controlled by daylight exposure with warming
temperatures, but that when the trees do bloom they may release more pollen
than normal due to the mild winter conditions—especially when preceded by adequate
she believes that mold might be more of a significant problem for allergy
sufferers due to a combination of the mild winter, changing weather patterns
and farmers tilling their fields earlier than normal—all of which bring
increased levels of mold across the nation.
the spring you see more variability [with mold] because of the rains and the
mold spores are carried on the weather patterns. And so when a weather front
moves through your area, it carries more mold spores to you. And when the
farmers till up the land they release a lot of mold into the air,” she says.
Tuck points out that weather conditions from the previous fall can affect mold
counts and types in the spring. As an example she refers to the heavy rains
that caused flooding in the Mississippi that resulted in a lot of vegetation
being killed off that has been decomposing.
do know that there is a change in the mold content from all of the dead and
dying vegetation from last year—we are going to have more problems this year as
a consequence of the flood from last year,” says Dr. Tuck.
asked about who in particular should expect to be affected this spring, she
believes that the pollen allergy sufferers will likely be harder hit than mold
sufferers who tend to be more variable in their response and therefore are
harder to predict. The pollen sufferers can expect to see a rougher allergy
season ahead of them if no late winter cold snaps hit their regions and if
spring rains bring abundant water to the trees, followed then by the grass and
weeds in late spring.
it is because of the increased risk of record pollen and mold counts this
spring that Dr. Tuck cannot emphasize enough the importance that people who
suffer from allergies go to their allergist early this year for assessment and
treatment. Allergy sufferers can expect that they will need to begin taking
their allergy meds earlier this year.
addition, people who previously have had only mild allergy symptoms may find
themselves with full blown allergy attacks for the first time. Dr. Tuck states
that people do not need to needlessly suffer from their allergies. Rather, that
they can find out whether their allergy is to pollen or mold by going to an
allergist who can perform skin scratch tests for pollens, intradermal
injections for molds or dust mites, or draw blood and perform a serum allergen
biggest message is to ‘please see an allergist’. It’s the best way to know what
you are allergic to, how to treat your symptoms, and how to have the best
control of your symptoms,” says Dr. Tuck. “This truly affects your quality of
life and productivity…allergies are one of the biggest medial conditions that
causes ‘presenteeism’. You don’t have to live with your allergies—we can treat
them and make them better.”
Tuck warns that by not getting control of your allergy symptoms that you are
putting yourself at an increased risk of developing respiratory problems like
asked how this spring is expected to compare to last spring, Dr. Tuck says “I
am going to expect that this spring pollen counts are going to be higher. Last
year was fairly moderate; the previous fall was pretty intense. I have an
expectation that this spring is going to be one of the more intense in the last
decade,” says Dr. Tuck explaining that this is due to a temperate winter, no
large cold snaps expected and that we’ve had moderate springs the last several
years. But, that this is dependent regionally on how much rain people will see
this spring in their areas and that some will be affected by increased pollen
counts whereas others might not.
Tuck also advises patients that monitoring daily or weekly pollen counts is not
always a good indicator of what to expect.
accurate pollen count information is problematic in that if you are given the
wrong information, monitoring your allergy response will not make sense to you
and may alter what medications you take, how often, as well as alter your plans
for the day. This can cause problems for allergy sufferers who miss out on an
outdoor event to avoid pollen exposure; or worse yet, go outside on a day when
the actual pollen counts are dangerously high for them.
year a study demonstrated that pollen count info from commercial television
stations and online sites were often unreliable because they rely on predicted
pollen forecasts rather than real-time data from a certified pollen counting
station. Furthermore, if a pollen counting station is a significant distance
from your home, then the counts may not apply toward what you are actually
To locate a certified pollen counting station, you can visit
the AAAAI's National Allergy Bureau™ website for a pollen
counting station nearest where you live.
Whether this spring proves to be the
worst allergy season in 10 years depends on the level of precipitation many
regions have with their spring rains and whether a plant-killing cold snap
develops. Without enough rain to support spring growth, the early allergy
season could fizzle out like a bad firecracker; however, with enough rain, we
can expect an explosion of sneezing, runny noses and red eyes