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Early allergy season?

Lyndsay Morrison
March 22, 2012 — Already, pollen counts in the United States are off the charts. Will this year's mild winter in many parts of Canada mean an early start to the allergy season on this side of the border?

Already sneezing?
Already sneezing?

Sneezing a little earlier than normal this year? You're not the only one.

A mild winter and 'March heatwave' in much of Canada could mean an early start to the allergy season. Pollen counts are already off the charts in the United States. So, can we expect the same thing on this side of the border?

Perhaps, according to the experts. 

"[The allergy season] hasn't started yet, but with the warm weather, the trees are more likely to pollinate," says Dr. Gordon Sussman, an Allergist in Toronto. "So the season could be earlier this year."

In Atlanta, Georgia, the pollen count was over nine-thousand on Tuesday. The way they measure that is in a cubic-meter of air, those are the parts per that cubic-meter.Over 15-hundred is considered extreme, and six-thousand was the old record. 

Pollen records are already being broken in the U.S., and it's only March. 

All the way up to Chicago they have high pollen counts.

"Obviously, the record-breaking heat for the past couple of weeks and an incredibly warm winter and early spring is the cause of this," says Rob Marciano, a meteorologist at CNN. "Until they get some rain across the southeast, which is in the forecast, pollen counts are expected to remain high."

While it has been warm March and had been a mild winter in central sections of Canada, it's been a bit of a different story on the West coast. Dr. Ross Chang is an allergist in Burnaby, BC. He explains how recent cool, wet weather is having an affect on allergy sufferers.

Allergy season has begun in parts of the US
Allergy season has begun in parts of the US

"Allergy season can vary depending on what part of the province you're living in. So, on the west coast here it can start really early, generally about the middle of February, but in a really early, warm season, we can have pollen in the air as early as January," he says. "But, this year is one of our later seasons because the weather's been a little colder. Temperatures haven't been rising as they normally would in the early spring, it's been about a month later than usual. But when we do get a warm day, and the pollen counts go up, people are having symptoms."

Chang says the symptoms suffered by those with allergies in British Columbia do not appear to be consistent yet, but that things could change in the coming weeks. At that point, he says allergy sufferers could have symptoms on a daily basis. 

Wind can also play a large role in determining how much your allergies will act up. Plant pollens carried by the wind are the cause of most nose, eye, and lung allergic reactions. In the summer months, smog and air pollution has been shown to worsen allergies and asthma symptoms. Some scientists also believe that exposure to diesel engine exhaust can increase a person's sensitivity to pollen or dust mites. 

The weather can also bring some relief to allergy sufferers. A good heavy rain can clean the air for the hours during and after it falls. In the springtime, rain can help reduce tree pollen counts. However, wet conditions can also trigger more grass pollen. 

The most common symptoms of a pollen allergy include: 

  • sneezing
  • a runny or clogged nose
  • itchy eyes, nose or throat
  • watering eyes
  • plugged up ears
  • coughing

Dr. Sussman has this advice for those looking for relief from their allergy symptoms. 

“It’s good for people to stay indoors if they can and use their air conditioner as a filter. People can take over the counter antihistamines as long as they’re well tolerated.” 

Be sure to check The Weather Network's Pollen Report to help you stay on top of your allergies this spring.

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