For seasonal allergy sufferers sneezing is the sound associated with spring. And if you feel like your symptoms are stronger and lasting longer, experts say you’ve hit it on the nose, no pun intended.
“We’ve seen an increase of pollen over the past two decades and things don’t seem to be getting any better for our community,” said Angel Waldron, director of communications for the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.
You can find pollen everywhere, coating your outdoor furniture and cars, that layer of green dust wreaking havoc on the eyes, nose and sinuses. Nationwide, more than 50 million Americans are affected by allergies. According to the AAFA, it’s the sixth leading cause of chronic illness in the United States.
“Pollen season has extended from 11 to 27 days over the past 20 years. It used to be mostly March to May that you would see pollen counts increase during the spring season. But now you can find pollen from February and to June,” said Waldron.
“We’re seeing an increased number of patients who are sensitized, as well as we’re seeing an increased number of things people are sensitive to. It’s no longer one or two items,” said Rutgers University allergy and immunology specialist Dr. Leonard Bielory.
Trees, grass, ragweed
Bielory says the overall climate has changed, causing the New Jersey season to start earlier and last longer. Trees pollinate first, beginning in February or March depending on how early warmer weather comes. Then comes grass pollen in June and ragweed at the end of August. But weary noses get little reprieve.
“They overlap, meaning trees are still pollinating now while grass is, so you really get a double-whammy at this point in time if your polisensitized, meaning you’re sensitized to more than one pollen grain,” he said.
Add to that another weird New Jersey fact: We’re one of the few areas to get a second grass pollination season.
Bielory and his team created an app called the AccuPollen Allergy tracker. It shows the real pollen count instead of an index to help people avoid triggers and it pinpoints exactly which pollen is in a specific area. Doctors also recommend getting an allergy test and proper medication.
“Try to stay inside between 5 to 10 a.m.,” Waldron said. “That’s when pollen counts are highest.” She also advised that when you return home after having been outside, you should “take off your shoes, so you don’t track any pollen inside [and] change your clothing.”