High pollen counts reported as mild weather kickstarts allergy season

Forget that the calendar says it's still winter, allergy season is already hitting much of the country despite spring officially being nearly a month away.

As a relatively mild and wet winter has given way to unseasonably high temperatures across much of the U.S., multiple areas are reporting high pollen counts weeks earlier than normal.

Here's a look at what you need to know about the kick-off to spring allergy season.

Which areas are reporting high pollen levels?

Not surprisingly, the South has started to see high levels of pollen as trees start to come back to life after winter weather. This week, Atlanta reported pollen counts of 1,289, according to the Atlanta Allergy and Asthma Center. Last year, nothing close to that was recorded until mid-March, according to the center.

Additionally, parts of Texas, North Carolina, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Georgia have all had high levels of tree pollen, according to a daily Accuweather map.

Does winter weather affect spring allergy season?

Dr. Yasmin Bhasin, an allergist at the Allergy and Asthma Care in Middletown, N.Y., said the mild, wet weather that has hit much of the country will likely mean a worse season for allergy sufferers overall.

"Allergy season is directly in relation to how much it has rained and snowed," Bhasin said. It depends on the weather for the trees "to grow and flourish and pollinate" in the spring. The healthier the trees, the more pollen in the air.

Mid-March is usually the prime time for allergens to be released, Bhasin said, but it can change depending on the weather and last year's cold winter meant allergy season was delayed.

Which allergens are released in the spring?

The top allergen of spring is tree pollen. The type of tree pollen released largely depends on the region, Bhasin said. However, primarily oak, maple, birch and elm trees will be causing allergy sufferers a lot of misery this spring, she noted.



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