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Warm weather sends Metro Vancouver's early tree pollen season into overdrive


An unseasonably warm winter meant Metro Vancouver’s tree pollen season started in late January this year, which is two to four weeks early.

And four days of non-stop sunshine with some record-breaking temperatures in mid-March has sent pollen counts into overdrive.

“Now that the weather has gotten much better, we are seeing much higher pollen count, and this is of course impacting people with pollen allergies,” said Dr. Amin Kanani, UBC’s head of the Division of Allergy and Immunology, who added the biggest culprits right now are alder, birch, willow, cottonwood and oak trees.

“We are allergic to the pollens that are very easily airborne,” Kanani said. “The pollen is floating into the air, we are getting it into our noses, into our eyes, into our lungs, so we get symptoms of nasal stuffiness, congestion, drippy nose, sneezing, itchy nose, (and) itchy, tearing eyes.”

Allergy sufferer Martyna Noworyta is experiencing the mid-March misery. “I already have a very stuffy nose, itchy sore throat. I find allergies just keep coming earlier and earlier every year, so unfortunately this year it’s already happening,” she said.

Because the high pollen levels are happening at the tail end of cold and flu season, it can be difficult to know what’s causing the runny nose and sneezing.

“We can distinguish it from a cold mainly due to the duration of the symptoms, because pollen season goes for many months, and a cold lasts days or a week,” said Kanani.

For chronic allergy sufferers, the hits will keep on coming. Metro Vancouver has two allergy seasons – when tree pollen is winding down, grass pollen will be getting started in May, and that lasts through August.

“Some can be allergic to both, some are just one or the other," said Kanani. "But they present the same way."

People with mild symptoms can usually find relief with over-the-counter antihistamines and saline nasal flushes.

“For those who have more moderate to severe symptoms, we recommend the prescription nasal sprays on anti histamine eye drops,” said Kanani, who also suggests people consult an allergist to determine what they’re actually allergic to.

Noworyta has prescription medications, but is still suffering from the abnormally high pollen counts.

“Honestly I’ve sneezed like 50 times today,” she said. “Essentially for the time being, I have to take my medication, my nasal spray, my eye drops, and hope for the best.”

(Source: The Weather Network) Top Stories

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