Might be time to grab some tissues. And some eye drops. And some over-the-counter allergy pills.
If you’re allergic to pollen and you haven’t felt any symptoms yet, you will be feeling them soon, according to Leonard Bielory, an allergist who teaches at the Rutgers University School of Environmental and Biological Sciences and also at the Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia.
Bielory said pollen from two types of trees picked up in intensity in New Jersey this week and will be intensifying during the first two weeks of May. That means lots of allergy sufferers will be coping with runny noses and itchy eyes, and people with asthma may be wheezing a bit more.
The timing of the pollen boost is related to the Garden State’s winter weather pattern, Bielory said. Even though this past winter was warmer than normal — with some months getting bouts of summer-like temperatures — pollen produced by plants and trees was suppressed by the strings of frigid weather.
“The scenario with New Jersey is interesting. It has not only had some warm spells, we also had some heavy snows and lots of moisture feeding into the system,” the allergy doctor said. “We had a very slow pollen release starting in March. It’s literally coming to fruition this week.”
Pollen produced by birch trees and oak trees began increasing last week and into the final week of April, and it will continue to rise during the next two weeks, said Bielory, who runs one of New Jersey’s official pollen-tracking stations out of his medical office in Springfield.
One thing that could help snuff out some of the tree pollen is rain, and New Jersey was dampened by light showers Friday and is expected to get more wet weather on Sunday and Monday.
“Rain will cleanse the air and cut down on the pollen grains,” said Bill Sciarappa, the Monmouth County agricultural agent with the Rutgers Cooperative Extension.
Even though rain will help ease the symptoms for pollen allergy sufferers, Sciarappa said, it will only be a temporary reprieve. When dry weather returns, tree pollen production will increase once again.
And, after the trees finish their pollination cycle, certain types of grasses and plants, including bluegrass and rose bushes, will start producing pollen, Sciarappa said. That process usually occurs in mid- to late May. Then, later in the summer, usually from August to September, ragweed pollen starts exploding.
How to fight pollen allergies
Pollen is one of the most common causes of seasonal allergies, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.
“Each spring, summer and fall, plants release tiny pollen grains to fertilize other plants of the same species. Most of the pollens that cause allergic reactions come from trees, weeds and grasses,” the foundation says on its website. “These plants make small, light and dry pollen grains that travel by the wind.”
If you suffer from pollen allergies, here are some tips the allergy foundation offers to help ease your symptoms:
- Limit your outdoor activities when pollen counts are high. This will lessen the amount of pollen allergen you inhale and reduce your symptoms.
- Keep car windows and house windows closed during pollen season and use central air conditioning with clean filters.
- Bathe and shampoo your hair daily before going to bed. This will remove pollen from your hair and skin and keep it off your bedding.
- Wear sunglasses and a hat when outside. This will help keep pollen out of your eyes and off your hair.
- Limit close contact with pets that spend a lot of time outdoors.
- Change and wash the clothes you have worn during outdoor activities.
- Dry your clothes in a clothes dryer, not on an outdoor line.
- Wash your bed sheets, blankets and pillow covers in hot, soapy water once a week.
- Start taking allergy medicine before pollen season begins. Most allergy medicines work best when taken this way. This allows the medicine to prevent your body from releasing histamine and other chemicals that cause your symptoms.