February wrapped up with an average temperature of 40.2°, 7.6° above normal, making February the 5th warmest on record in Indianapolis. Flowers are starting to pop up around Indianapolis, and trees also starting to bud. Will this impact allergy season this year?
Dr. Jay Jin, MD, Ph.D., is an allergist and immunologist at the IU School of Medicine. Dr. Jin answered a few questions about this topic.
We had a very mild February, is pollen season starting earlier this year?
Pollen season depends a lot on the lifecycle of the trees, grasses, and weeds. The weather can impact when trees begin to pollinate. With milder temperatures, trees may start to pollinate earlier. We generally think of late February to early March as the start of tree pollen season. Late spring through summer is when grasses pollinate. Late summer through the end of fall is when weeds will pollinate. The pollen season extends through all of the warm months of the year with different dominant pollen depending on the time of year.
If we have another hard freeze, will this impact those plants? Will we see fewer flowers, and less budding on the trees?
Any hard freezes or cold temperatures that occur after plants begin to pollinate can affect their growth. The weather changes can impact pollen levels temporarily, but usually, the plants will rebound and continue to flower and pollinate even with fluctuations in the weather.
Have we seen an increase in pollen counts in the last few years with the less-than-average snowfall each winter?
Pollen counts vary every year due to a number of different factors. Milder than average winters can set the stage for more active plant growth and pollination in the spring, but rain levels, temperatures, humidity, and wind conditions, can also affect pollen counts, so it isn’t totally dependent just on winter weather conditions.
What can people expect from this season as a whole?
Each year brings a different pollen season. This variability is clear from reviewing past pollen count data. It is difficult to make specific predictions about what the coming year will bring, but I would encourage people to keep track of their symptoms and ask for help from their doctor if allergy symptoms seem to be worse this year.
In summary, the mild February can impact your allergies this year, and Dr. Jin recommends monitoring your symptoms as we head into the spring season.