March 27, 2014 -- A bitterly cold winter followed by a sudden spring warm-up might spell massive misery if you have allergies.
“When pollen has been held up by cold weather, you can get a flood of pollen as the weather warms up,” says allergy researcher Kraig Jacobson, MD. “And that may indeed be happening now.”
Allergy season is already well underway in parts of the Midwest, where many states have experienced some of the most brutal winters in history. Reports of extremely high pollen counts are already coming in from Kansas and Oklahoma, where one expert predicts a “super bloom” of pollen as temperatures rise suddenly.
Forecasts, clearly, are not one-size-fits-all. How bad the allergy season will be depends on where you are.
“Things are very, very regional because of weather and what grows there,” says Jacobson, a pollen counter for the National Allergy Bureau.
Parts of Ohio and Missouri have moderate pollen counts so far, while Chicago and Minneapolis have yet to tally any pollen this year.
In the Northeast, a late storm brought more snow, not pollen. If temperatures rise quickly after the winter blast, that region could be in for a bad allergy season. In California and neighboring states, pollen counts are low because of drought. The rest of the country, on the other hand, has had plenty of moisture to produce high levels of pollen.
Jacobson predicts that New Orleans and coastal areas will be particularly hard hit because of their many live oaks, a common variety of oak tree.
In parts of Texas, cedars are expected to cause a lot of grief -- make that a lot more grief. Shortly after the mountain cedar pollen season began in late December, Austin and San Antonio measured pollen counts in the thousands, news reports said. Jacobson says there probably will be more of the same from other types of cedar trees now that it’s spring.
You can see what WebMD users are reporting in their states here.
If things are bad in your part of the country in March, will they get worse? That’s hard to say.
“Predicting pollen is like predicting the weather,” Jacobson says. “There’s a lot of variability, and you can have sudden changes.”
There’s also a lot of variety when it comes to pollen providers. Some trees pollinate for a couple of weeks in early spring, while others pollinate a little later. Grass pollen follows tree pollen in April, May, and June. Ragweed and other weed pollens come next, to ruin late summer and early autumn.