Allergy Season 2015: Jury Still Out On So-Called Pollen Vortex
Apr 10, 2015, 3:57 AM ET
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Spring has finally sprung in many places after a record-breaking winter (sorry, Boston), but you might be reaching for tissues more often than usual this year amid worries about a "pollen vortex."
Some allergists say a harsher winter means an especially bad allergy season, but the jury's still out on whether the science backs that up.
Manhattan allergist Dr. Cliff Bassett said "pollen vortex" isn't exactly a scientific term, but he believss that wet winters lead to more pollen, and therefore, worse allergy seasons.
"Whenever you have a fall and winter with a lot of precipitation like we had in received in most places, the soil is moist," said Bassett, explaining that this makes the plants and their root systems "very happy" and causes them to produce more pollen in the spring and summer.
On top of that, a late spring also results in what Bassett calls a "pollen tsunami" as a variety of pollen kicks in all at once.
"May is the new April, June is the new May," he said. "Allergy misery is just around the corner."
And the carbon dioxide in big cities tells the plants to produce three or four times more pollen, Bassett said, adding that it's sticky, and adheres to eyeballs, causing itchy watery eyes.
A "pollen vortex" was thought to succeed the "polar vortex" of 2014, but a study presented at the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology last fall declared that it didn't happen. In Ontario, Canada, pollen counts were actually lower than they'd been in 12 years, the researchers concluded.
"Our results showed the reported pollen burst failed to materialize last spring," lead author aerobiologist James Anderson said in a statement. "Specifically, pollen levels of maple, juniper, birch, ash, mulberry and walnut were as much as four to five times lower than the average. The other tree pollen counts were within normal range."
In Atlanta, they were lower than they'd been in 2013, but there were more high-pollen days, according ACAAI.
No matter what, Bassett suggested that people with allergies begin using their allergy nasal sprays before their symptoms begin to appear. He said in many cases this can reduce the amount of allergy medications patients will need to take overall. He also suggested learning what you're allergic to, and checking pollen indexes to prepare for bad allergy days by exercising indoors, for instance.