Spring allergy season starting ahead of calendar, NJ expert says
At 11:33 a.m. Sunday, New Jersey's long, cold, lonely winter will finally, officially end, but one of the Garden State's foremost allergy experts said the spring sniffle season has already begun.
Dr. Leonard Bielory, professor of medicine, allergy, immunology and ophthalmology at Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine, said 70-plus degree temperatures in the final week of winter have helped accelerate elevated pollen counts for New Jersey's alder, cypress, and maple trees specifically.
Those trees and others will be pollinating through the end of May, Bielory said, including birch and oak, which haven't even really gotten started yet, to be followed by grasses and weeds.
So things are actually on schedule well into the summer, he said, and New Jerseyans can expect an overall intensity on par with 2021 — with one X-factor.
Townsquare New Jersey Chief Meteorologist Dan Zarrow proclaimed "snow storm season" over for the Garden State following last Saturday's precipitation, but just that late-season burst could worsen things for allergy sufferers, according to Bielory.
"We've had a lot of snow, and that amount of snow over the winter does portend, or predict, that there will be an increased amount of pollen because the ground is saturated with water," Bielory said.
Point-in-time pollen counts, such as one started by Bielory at Kean University, at his Springfield office, or on the AccuPollen app, are a resource residents can use if they know this is going to be a tough time of year.
"We really have multiple seasons of the seasonal allergies for individuals," Bielory said. "What can they do? They can actually know what's in the air."
Yet even if people know what they are allergic to, and when it peaks, they may not have settled on the most appropriate remedy for them.
"Steroidphobia" is a real thing for some, said Bielory, who revealed that non-steroidal, holistic treatments with essential oils are gaining in popularity and effectiveness.
These solutions may also be viable alternatives for those used to taking oral antihistamines, which Bielory said only go so far.
"They will have abnormalities in their tear film, and by taking an antihistamine, their eyes will become drier and more irritated so that they can't wear contact lenses, or their eyes just get irritated easily," he said.
What New Jerseyans don't have to do, Bielory said, is continue to tough it out spring after spring.
"If you have issues, for example, with just the prolonged season and you've been having them for three, four, five years, you really need to perhaps see an allergist for skin testing and consider immunotherapy," he said.
Bielory added that although adapting to an immunotherapy regimen does take time, it may also prove effective for other, non-seasonal allergies, like peanuts.
Patrick Lavery is a reporter and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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