Allergy season arrives early across the Pacific Northwest

Mar 23, 2023, 10:05 AM | Updated: 10:17 am

Allergy season...

A student is sitting under the flowering cherry trees in spring time at the Quad of the University of Washington in Seattle. (Photo by: Wolfgang Kaehler/Avalon/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

(Photo by: Wolfgang Kaehler/Avalon/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Last Friday through the weekend, during the closing days of ‘winter,’ the sun came out, and temperatures reached into the 60s in many places. Trees, bulbs, and plants noticed and have started to awaken. Daffodils, for instance, have made their appearance.

But for allergy sufferers, achoo!! Sniffle! Runny nose and red itchy eyes. Allergy season is here already.

Big change with rain dropping temperatures, snow in the passes

If it seems allergy season seems to start earlier and earlier, you would be correct. Studies have shown that since the 1950s, summer is now three weeks longer worldwide, with the fall, winter, and spring seasons all shorter in length.

Early in the allergy season, it is the trees that are the greatest offender as they awaken from their winter slumber. Leaves and blossoms — oh, those blossoms — are sprouting, sending their pollen into the air and finding noses.

The University of Washington cherry trees are a few weeks behind, thanks to the cool February and first half of March. Once they blossom, though, they will be picturesque, but for those with allergies — a nightmare.

The tree pollen season is just getting underway. At this time, the greatest offending trees include Hazelnut and Birch trees. Cedar and Juniper are also getting started. Cottonwood, Poplar, Alder, Willow, and Maple trees are next at bat. Later in April and May, Sycamore, Ash, and Oak trees will contribute their own pollen.

With longer days, more sunshine, and warmer weather, grasses and weeds will then replace tree pollen and offer their own pollen later this spring, heading into summer.

Even though many suffer allergies during spring and summer, western Washington has a significant advantage when it comes to seasonal allergies – rain. Rain washes away pollen in the air, offering great relief to allergy sufferers. But when it comes to where to live to reduce allergy sources, this region is number one in the country. The 2023 Asthma and Allergy Foundation report reviewed data from 100 cities across the United States, and the Seattle area is ranked at the top of all those cities.

In fact, all but one of the top 10 cities in the nation is in the western third of the country. The worst city in the report was Scranton, Pa., and joined many other cities from the Central Plains states and Texas eastward to the Northeast.

When North Sound weather does get warmer and drier, pollen counts rise. The Northwest Asthma and Allergy Center posts daily pollen counts, including the most common offending pollen contributors. The next rainy or even windy day will reduce pollen in the air and offer allergy relief.

Dr. Jan Agosti, an infectious disease specialist affiliated with the University of Washington Medicine, offers an idea for allergy sufferers when pollen counts rise.

“Face masks. It’s now socially acceptable to wear them, and while high-filtered masks are best, even plain old cloth ones help,” she noted. “Sunglasses and eyeglasses help, too. Anything that keeps it out of your nose and eyes.”

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Allergy season arrives early across the Pacific Northwest