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Sunday
Apr132014

Does the Polar Vortex Mean a Pollen-Heavy Allergy Season?

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) --  After a seemingly never-ending winter, temperatures have finally warmed from "polar vortex" lows to more spring-like temperatures. However, a new menace lurks for those wanting to enjoy the outdoors: pollen.

"This is truly the gift that keeps giving," ABC News medical correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton said. "Instead of a gradual blooming of everything we normally see on the windshield of our car, it's all happening at once really setting up a perfect storm for allergy sufferers."

Kate Weinberger, a Ph.D. candidate in Environmental Health Sciences at Mailman School of Public Health in Columbia University studying the effects of climate change on pollen, said studies have shown that wet and warmer winters have resulted in earlier and longer allergy seasons and that the past few stormy months may be a sign that allergy sufferers will soon need to reach for the antihistamines.

"There were all of these storms and there's been a lot of tree growth," Weinberger said of the severe winter. "[Scientists] are theorizing that because we've had a wet winter the pollen season will be worse."

Additionally, allergy seasons are usually separated into distinct seasons, with trees causing problems in the spring and grasses causing issues in the summer. However, Weinberger said there is a chance that if the weather warms very quickly it could mean plants that normally bloom at different times over a period of weeks to months will bloom all at once.

"[Trees] need to experience a certain amount of heat over a certain period before they will start flowering, so if it stays colder in the spring it will be later when they reach the threshold," Weinberger said. "People are speculating that everything is going to show up all at once [as the plants flower] in the warm temperatures."

If you have allergies, particularly oak and birch allergies, experts have a few tips about how to avoid the agony of allergy season over the next few weeks without retreating to a hermetically sealed bubble. Experts say using a neti pot, showering before bed to get rid of pollen particles on the body and keeping windows closed to keep out errant pollen particles are all key.

Additionally, Ashton says there are new medications available to those in need including Oralair, a new medication made up of freeze-dried grasses that can help combat allergies.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio