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Though it may not feel like it in many parts of the country, spring is officially here. But the winter thaw and budding trees signal something else too: namely, that allergy season is here.
Not to dampen your springtime enthusiasm, but some media outlets are reporting that this year promises to be one of the worst hay fever seasons. Ever. That’s a big claim, considering that 2012 was in fact the worst allergy season on record (thanks to the unseasonably warm winter we had).
One report suggests that the season has already begun and will likely last about 30 days longer than usual, lasting into October. If you’re thinking, “How is this even possible when there’s still snow on the ground?” Well, we had our doubts, too. And we went looking to the experts for answers.
The good: Allergy sufferers can breathe a little easier -- at least for now. According to allergist Stanley Fineman, M.D., immediate past president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, we are not seeing pollen counts anywhere near what they were last year -- thanks to the recent cold snap (Take note: wintry weather in March isn’t always a bad thing!).
The bad: While pollen counts remain relatively low around the country so far, allergist Catherine Monteleone, M.D., associate professor of medicine at UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, warns that damp conditions have led to increased mold growth -- another big-time allergy culprit.
What’s more, even though hay fever season is off to a slow start, that doesn’t necessarily mean it will remain mild. “Experts are worried that the amount of precipitation we have had makes for robust plants and plentiful pollen release,” Monteleone says. In other words, don't toss out your tissue box just yet.
How bad of an allergy season we have will largely depend on the weather to come. “If the rain continues throughout the spring, it washes the pollen out of the air. Likewise, if the summer is hot without rain, it also tends to be more pollen-free,” explains Monteleone.
Basically, only time will tell how bad our allergies will be compared to last year. “It’s hard to predict what kind of season we’re going to have, because it’s hard to predict weather,” says Fineman. “But this season is definitely not starting as early as last year and, so far, it looks like a regular allergy season.”
For tips on how to manage your symptoms, check out our allergy season survival guide.