Spring is Just around the Corner

What Am I Doing? It’s only 1 degree outside and I’m sharing about pollen?
Nothing to sneeze at: Climate change has worsened, lengthened pollen season across the US
Doyle Rice
Published on Feb 8, 2021

As bleak as our winter has been, don’t be fooled by all that snow and freezing temperatures. Moisture in the form of snow and ice feeds the root systems of spring trees that will blossom by the end of this week. Warm winter coats and scarves will soon turn into light jackets and shorts. Your runny nose will no longer be a cold or viral infection, but will probably be classical hayfever due to tree pollen. This article from USA Today caught my attention not only for timeliness, but proven increase in the “pollen load” that our growing seasons are providing more warmth, length of season and generally more favorable conditions for growth of vegetation or “anything green!” I know, you can’t say the pollen season is starting early this year, but over the past 20 years, more ragweed is being collected based on the weight of this very important pollen than every before. What a job, right? I find it interesting that allergies are the only medical condition that patients are disappointed when they don’t have them. Even if your allergy testing is negative, enjoy learning the impact of pollen and where you find it!

Pollen seasons start 20 days earlier and are 10 days longer than they were in 1990.

This has major implications for asthma, allergies and other respiratory health problems.

The greatest increases in pollen were recorded in Texas and the Midwest.

USA Today Feb 8, 2021

Is this a noticeable change or just something written to take up space. In 2020 (a year we all hope to forget), Spring allergy sufferers got put on the back burner because everyone was indoors. What a difference that made with allergy symptoms such as sneezing, runny nose, and cough. If you’re not expose to trees, you won’t develop your allergies at least not for the year in question. I imagine that “cabin fever” has gotten the best of us and staying indoors is no longer an acceptable option. Enjoy the outdoors at the end of this week, but remember, that allergy symptoms may now take the place of COVID-19.

With spring around the corner, here’s some bad news for allergy sufferers: Human-caused climate change has both worsened and lengthened pollen seasons across the U.S. and Canada, a study Monday reports.

“The strong link between warmer weather and pollen seasons provides a crystal-clear example of how climate change is already affecting people’s health across the U.S.,” said study lead author William Anderegg, a biologist at the University of Utah.

You may find yourself grabbing the nearest Kleenex or as many patients will tell me, “I should have invested in Kleenex!” You may be right–>Kleenex® Tissue was first introduced in 1924, when a package of 100 sheets sold for 65 cents. Although it was originally marketed as a cold cream remover, people used the tissue many other ways, especially as a disposable handkerchief. In 1930, advertising was changed to reflect this usage,…(see below)

New research shows that pollen seasons start 20 days earlier, are 10 days longer, and feature 21% more pollen than they did in 1990.
I shudda bought stock in this!

I’ve heard it said, “allergies are a trivial disease, unless you have them”. Patients miss more days of work and confess to lower productivity when suffering from allergies compared to even asthma, congestive heart failure, and COPD! If you head to the emergency room, you’ll likely get a steroid shot–not an exposure you want to have for years in a row. Side effects with steroid shots may include glaucoma, osteoporosis, cataracts, and weight gain. The list goes on, but you get my point.

Allergies to airborne pollen can be more than just a seasonal nuisance to many. Allergies are tied to respiratory health and have implications for viral infections, emergency room visits and even children’s school performance, according to a statement from the University of Utah. More pollen, hanging around for a longer season, makes those impacts worse.

Climate change has two broad effects, according to the study. First, it shifts pollen seasons earlier and lengthens their duration. Second, it increases the pollen concentrations in the air so pollen seasons are, on average, worse.

USA Today Feb 8, 2021
Ragweed pollen grains, as seen through an electron microscope.

 And in case you were wondering which pollen is pictured above, it’s ragweed. Ragweed pollen all look pretty uniform and the pollen is covered with little “spikes”. Why you ask–I have no idea, but perhaps this allows them to stick to the inside of the nose and cause all that misery for pollen sufferers. In any event, the pollen dissolves on our mucous membranes in order to bind to our IgE and start the process of allergy.

  • And how is pollen counted anyway?
  • Pollen counting stations are found all across the country, but don’t rely on Google searching to find them. The multiple hits you find are all advertisements for “allergy free” products. Use the AAAAI listed below to find your region.
  • Here’s what I notice just from a glance at the pollen map. Most of the pollen counting stations are located in the Eastern United States. The counting stations get sparse as you move West. Could this be that much of our land mass from sea-to-shining sea creates much of our pollen on the East coast. Why count pollen if you don’t find as much in the Midwest?
  • But this is changing as Dr. Anderegg’s research finds the greatest increase in pollen recorded in Texas and the Midwest!


Welcome to the AAAAI’s National Allergy Bureau™ (NAB™), your most trusted resource for accurate pollen and mold levels. View levels in your area and create a personalized email alert account through My NAB.


Click the map below to begin exploring pollen counts in your area!

pollen map

Anderegg’s research team looked at measurements from 1990 to 2018 from 60 pollen count stations across the U.S. and Canada, maintained by the National Allergy Bureau.

Although nationwide pollen amounts increased by around 21% over the study period, the greatest increases were recorded in Texas and the Midwest, and more among tree pollen than among other plants.

“Our findings are consistent with a broad body of research on pollen seasons, respiratory health and climate change,” Anderegg said. “Other studies have also found increasing pollen loads in many regions and, in controlled greenhouse settings, that warmer temperatures and higher carbon-dioxide concentrations increase plant pollen production.” 

“Climate change isn’t something far away and in the future,” Anderegg concluded. “It’s already here in every spring breath we take and increasing human misery. The biggest question is – are we up to the challenge of tackling it?”

USA Today Feb 8, 2021

The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a peer-reviewed journal.  

And where does Oklahoma rank in terms of pollen count load? Copy and paste the picture gallery and you’ll find as expected that cities with high pollen counts are predominantly on the East coast. Tulsa comes in at #23 and Oklahoma City at #9. We can’t even beat Oklahoma City with pollen! Oh well, stepchild status forever.


#pollen-counts, #spring-trees