Worst of Allergy Season May Be Yet to Come, Experts Say
(NEW YORK) -- Thought the worst of the allergy season was behind you? Think again. For many allergy sufferers, the peak of the season may be just ahead.
Things got off to a sneezy, stuffy start earlier than usual this year, when unseasonably warm temperatures in March revved up tree pollen about two weeks ahead of schedule in most areas of the country.
As tree pollen season comes to a close in early May, experts say grass pollen season, which usually begins in late April, is just getting started. The overlap could compound the misery of many allergy sufferers.
"For people allergic to pollen and grass, they will be double hit," said Dr. David Lang, head of the allergy and immunology section of the Respiratory Institute at the Cleveland Clinic.
The earlier-than-normal start to this allergy season may be made worse for some with allergies, who can become hypersensitive to allergens after being exposed early in the season. The phenomenon, called nasal priming, may explain why many people feel this season is so much worse than years past.
"Whereas earlier in the season it would take a high level of exposure to produce symptoms, after priming, symptoms are provoked by lower levels," Lang said. "More people are coming in to see us claiming a higher allergy response than in previous years. I would suspect that priming is to blame."
Although nearly all areas of the U.S. have been basking in a warmer spring this year, experts said the timing and severity of allergy season varied depending on geographic area. People living in the Northeast, Midwest, Northwest and Southeast may see the worst of the grass pollen.
"It really depends on where you are. I'm in Atlanta, and our tree pollen counts peaked a few weeks ago, whereas I would imagine northern areas are peaking now," said Dr. Stanley Fineman, president of the American College of Allergies, Asthma and Immunology. "But I recently spoke to a colleague in Washington state, who said their season is just gearing up now."
Weather also plays a role. Warm and breezy spring days mean higher levels of pollen, while rain brings those levels down.
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