Spring forecast: Allergy sufferers beware

Mold allergens will be particularly prominent this spring and summer, especially in the West, on account of the significant drought conditions across the central United States. Dry and hot weather helps lift the mold from the soil and into the air, contributing to hay fever along with any prominent tree pollens.

Since the beginning of 2013, dry and cold weather has prevailed over the West, according to the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center. Throughout California and across the West Coast, the spring wet season is expected to wind down toward the end of March, and by May, precipitation will be sparse.

Temperature also plays a role in determining the severity of an allergy season, and a mild winter doesn’t bode well for allergy sufferers along the East Coast either. Early spring temperatures mean allergy symptoms will be intense and last longer than average.

While it’s difficult to detect the severity of the spring allergy season nationwide, traditionally, the milder the winter, the longer the season will be due to what is known as the priming effect, noted Stanley Fineman, immediate past president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

“When winter weather turns unexpectedly warm, pollens and molds are released into the air earlier than usual, and then die down when it gets cold again,” Fineman said. “This pattern of weather can prime a person’s allergic reaction, so when the allergen reappears as the weather gets warm again, allergy symptoms are worse 
than ever.”

“We [were] already seeing patients coming in with allergy symptoms in Atlanta,” Fineman said. “Because it [was] still February, several people in the Southeast [had] been confusing their allergy symptoms for cold viruses.”

For those living in regions where pollen counts have not yet increased, ACAAI recommends sufferers begin taking medication now and make an appointment with their allergist.