Should you be worried about the 'pollen vortex'?

April 28, 2014
Some experts are predicting that this year's cold winter will lead to an intense period of pollination on the part of trees and grasses. This so-called 'pollen vortex' could wreak havoc on those with allergies. Credit: ALLAN FOSTER

(Medical Xpress)—After an unseasonably cold and snowy winter, Canadians can soon look forward to sunshine and warmer weather.

Allergy sufferers, however, may not be quite so happy to see spring.

That's because of what some are calling an imminent "pollen vortex" – the sudden release of pent-up pollen from plants delayed from doing so by the .

The extended winter could also cause trees to bloom at the same time as grasses, which typically don't release their pollen until later in the season. This perfect storm of pollen could play havoc on the systems of those prone to allergies.

Susan Waserman, however, isn't quite buying all the hype.

The professor of medicine who specializes in allergies says she hears "Worst Season Ever" warnings every year.

"Every season is dependent on ," she explained. "We just had a quick freeze – so there goes the theory of a quick warm up."

Still, Waserman says there is the possibility that the next few weeks could be particularly brutal for allergy sufferers.

"If we warm up in a sustained fashion, yes, the early pollinating trees are going to have a short, fast season with high levels of ," she said. "By the time we get to the later pollinators though – grass, ragweed – the weather is usually a bit more stable, so their are a bit more predictable. But at the end of the day, you just never know for sure what's going to happen."

Pollen vortex or otherwise, Waserman says her advice to remains the same: take practical precautions, such as keeping doors and windows closed as much as possible, and don't suffer in silence.

"Most antihistamines are available over the counter, and there are also good prescription medications available from your doctor," she said. "Your allergist can help you develop an effective treatment plan, but you have to recognize that you're suffering first."

Symptoms can resemble those of a common cold: itchy, watery eyes, and in extreme cases, asthma. Waserman says that if they continue on for longer than normal, you may be experiencing allergies. That's why it's important to get tested.

"If your sleep is suffering, if your work is suffering, if you're coughing and wheezing – see your doctor. Don't make assumptions about what's happening to you."

Explore further: Managing seasonal allergies

Related Stories

Managing seasonal allergies

June 17, 2013

(HealthDay)—Although spring arrived late this year in parts of the United States, the summer allergy season will still be strong, according to a sinus expert at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Spring is here, but so are allergies

March 21, 2014

Spring has finally arrived in Cincinnati, but soon to follow will be the coughing, sneezing and wheezing that comes with allergies, hay fever and asthma—three warm weather killjoys most could do without.

So long snow, hello pollen

April 6, 2014

(HealthDay)—Although it still feels like winter in many parts of the United States, it's time to prepare for spring allergies, an expert says.

Recommended for you

Four gut bacteria decrease asthma risk in infants

September 30, 2015

New research by scientists at UBC and BC Children's Hospital finds that infants can be protected from getting asthma if they acquire four types of gut bacteria by three months of age. More than 300 families from across Canada ...

Flu infection reveals many paths to immune response

September 28, 2015

A new study of influenza infection in an animal model broadens understanding of how the immune system responds to flu virus, showing that the process is more dynamic than usually described, engaging a broader array of biological ...

Immune cells may help fight against obesity

September 15, 2015

While a healthy lifestyle and "good genes" are known to help prevent obesity, new research published on September 15 in Immunity indicates that certain aspects of the immune system may also play an important role. In the ...

The Achilles' heel of HIV

September 8, 2015

Researchers at the University of Bonn have discovered how cells in the body can detect the genetic material of so-called retroviruses. The pathogen of the immunodeficiency disease AIDS, the HI-1 virus, also belongs to this ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.