Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Winter's Warmer Weather Explains Early Allergy Season

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Winter's Warmer Weather Explains Early Allergy Season

Article excerpt

After a warm winter - after any winter, for that matter - you expect the announcement that persuades people to stock up on antihistamines and nasal sprays: Expect a bad allergy season.

But there's good reason for that claim this year. December through January featured temperatures 4.5 degrees Fahrenheit higher than normal, with March so far averaging 7 degrees higher than normal and likely to climb with warm late-month weather, according to National Weather Service statistics.

The warm winter led to an earlier tree bloom with rising pollen levels in early March.

"We're now in the peak of the tree season with trees in full bloom for two or three weeks now," said Deborah Gentile, director of research in the Allegheny Health Network Department of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. "The warm spell through most of February and early March is what triggered trees to bloom sooner."

Consider that tree pollen levels traditionally rise in late March or early April and end early in May, when the grass-pollen season begins, she said.

Moderate to high pollen levels cause allergists' phones to ring with patients fighting their allergies. Antihistamines should be taken two weeks prior to symptoms. But the early season means patients already have been sneezing, rubbing their eyes and feeling that their sinuses are full of concrete.

Another concern is what occurred last year, when the tree-pollen allergy season from March to May overlapped with the grass allergy season, which typically begins in May. That overlap magnifies allergy symptoms for people affected by both. The fall allergy season begins in August from ragweed and weed pollens, which persist until the first frost. Add to that the year-round allergies some people also experience from dust, dust mites, mold, cockroaches and pet dander, among other allergens. …

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