There may be a whiff of truth to claims by allergy sufferers who sniffle that this season is, well, a bigger headache than years past.And now, more bad news: It’s also lasting longer, prolonging the misery of the millions of people for whom spring is a punishment, not a pleasure.Heavy snow and rain in some parts of the country have nourished a profusion of tree pollen, while a sudden shift to warm, sunny weather has made its release more robust. The deluges and, in some places, flooding have pumped up the volume on mold. Add in the wind, and the suffering skyrockets.Warnings about the difficult season have come from allergy specialists from New York to Atlanta, Chicago to California.”This past week has been one of the worst ever,” rasped Lynne Ritchie, 70, as she bought allergy medicine this week at a Manhattan drugstore.Dr. Stanley Schwartz hears that from patients all the time — every year, in fact, he noted with a wry smile.
“Literally, every year is the worst year,” said Schwartz, chief of allergy and rheumatology for Kaleida Health and the University at Buffalo. “Now it may actually be, but when it’s there and you’re feeling it, you don’t remember what last year was like.”What is certain is that allergy seasons in general have been getting longer and more challenging, said Angel Waldron, spokeswoman for the Asthma and Allergy Foundation.We do know that climate change and warmer temperatures are allowing trees to pollinate longer than usual,” she said. “Although people feel things are worse than ever before, it’s actually because of the longer season. It’s a longer time to endure.”Pollen counts and allergy attacks vary widely from region to region, locality to locality and day to day, and no one entity tracks the full complexity of their ups and downs across the country. But everything is ripe this year for a historic season.
It’s been an exceptionally rainy spring in much of the country, with several states east of the Mississippi River setting records for the wettest April since 1895. That means luxuriously blooming trees and a similar effect on mold.”The mold will grow under the fallen leaves from last season,” Schwartz said. “So if it’s very wet, it isn’t just the blooming plants but it’s also the mold, and many people are allergic to multiple airborne allergens.”The Asthma and Allergy Foundation lists Knoxville, Tenn.; Louisville, Ky.; Charlotte, N.C.; Jackson, Miss.; and Chattanooga, Tenn.; as its “2011 spring allergy capitals,” using a scoring system that measures airborne grass, tree and weed pollen; mold spores; the number of allergy medications used per patient; and the number of allergy specialists per capita – Yahoonews