Last month's record-breaking warm weather has fooled Mother Nature and triggered an early start to spring allergy season.
That means those allergic to tree pollen are already sneezing, coughing and enduring runny noses and watery, itchy eyes.
"The season started off probably three weeks sooner than it should have," said Dr. John Hein, who works in the Allergy & Immunology Department at Pentucket Medical in Haverhill. "Normally, we wouldn't start seeing the tree pollen until the first week in April and we started seeing it the second week in March almost."
With temperatures over 70 degrees in late March, trees began pollinating as if the calendar was flipped several weeks ahead, said Ken Dovidio, a physician assistant at New England Allergy and Immunology in North Andover.
"Tree pollen is running high right now," said Dovidio.
Yesterday's daily pollen count was listed as "severe" on the New England Allergy and Immunology website. The counts are based on air samples taken in North Andover and based on a scale of 1 to 10. The count yesterday was recorded at 8.
In Haverhill, the pollen allergy level on Pollen.com was expected to rise to 11.3 on a scale of 12 by Saturday. Despite the cooler weather, Hein said his patients have consistently reported allergy symptoms in recent weeks.
"I've been extremely busy for the past four weeks," said Hein.
Hein and Dovidio said those seeking relief from pollen allergies should keep windows shut, use air purifiers, take over-the-counter medicine, and avoid spending time outside during peak periods of pollination — early in the morning and late in the afternoon.
Dovidio said the amount of pollen released in a given year is more or less constant.
It's the rate the pollen is released that dictates the severity of a given allergy season — and that often depends on the weather, he said.
"We expect it to be a strong season because of the warm weather we've had," said Dovidio.
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