Winter is over and everyone should feel free to retire “snowpocalypse” and “polar vortex” from their vocabulary. If letting go of these buzz words isn’t that easy, take comfort in this: The harsh winter could cause a historically bad allergy season because of what some are referring to as the “pollen vortex.”
Essentially, the long winter has caused a delayed allergy season, which could mean a “perfect storm of pollen,” according to The Washington Post.
What is the pollen vortex? The Post offers this explanation:
“A tidal wave of pent-up pollen could be coming our way as the area heads toward the height of allergy season later this month. In fact, by [last] Friday, the decent weather already had sent pollen counts climbing.”
“It is a term that people are using to describe the [effects of the] polar vortex. We’ve had a real rough winter with the rain, snow, ice and cold temperatures,” Stanley Fineman, M.D., practicing allergist with Atlanta Allergy & Asthma Clinic and a past-president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, told weather.com. “So it’s kind of overwhelmed us. The pollen has been waiting for the warmer weather, and we’re just now seeing that, so we’re seeing extremely high pollen counts.”
“The phenomena can be contributed to the fact that the trees have taken on the water from the snow and ice and have not been able to release the pollen [until now],” he added.
The pollen vortex might sound silly, but it appears to be very real for those with allergies across the country.
“We see that patients come in with more complaints. They have more severe symptoms, like nasal congestion, itchy noses, itchy eyes and sneezing,” said Dr. Fineman. “I’ve seen several who are not responding to the typical medications that they get over the counter.”
Dr. Fineman explained that allergy symptoms could start with pollen counts as low as 100, and it’s important for patients to track the counts in their area.
(MORE: Check Your Local Pollen Forecast)
“We see high tree pollen counts this time of the year. This year we’ve seen prolonged and higher counts of pollen,” said Dr. Fineman. “For instance, it rained in Atlanta last night and the pollen count was still 1180. It’s in the high range — over 1000 is a lot of pollen — even after the rain washes [some of] it away.”
The Worst Allergy Season Ever?
The pollen vortex has caused a harsh, although delayed, start to this year’s allergy season. But it’s still too early to predict how intense this allergy season will get.
“It’s hard to predict [that far out],” explained Dr. Fineman. “We don’t have a good scientific way to predict the pollen forecast because there are too many variables.”
Despite a rough beginning, this season might not continue to be so brutal, and the pollen vortex could soon become a distant memory. For now, pollen counts remain high, and people who want help with their symptoms should go see an allergist.
“We need to figure out what’s causing the triggers,” said Dr. Fineman. “[After testing] we can decide on the best course of treatment.”
Some allergy symptoms can be treated with over-the-counter medication. If your symptoms continue, seek further treatment — whether the pollen vortex continues.