The El Niño phenomenon may usher in more pollen and an early, intense allergy season, experts have warned.

In Sacramento, for instance, the El Niño brought about sporadic storms that “fed” the thirsty plants, which had been bloated to a state of lush and exciting greenery. While a feast for the eyes, the scenery came with increased nose and throat irritation, according to allergy sufferers.

Sacramento’s spore count has increased by about 20 percent after four years of poor green growth. The heavy rains followed by warm weather back in early February caused pollen to be released more substantially than the previous year, which then came with more sneezing, coughing, and allergic reactions.

With increased rain comes enhanced biomass, of the carbon green system of flowering plants, grasses, and weeds, according to allergy expert Dr. Travis Miller.

“Once the sun comes out, and spring temperatures hit the 50- to 70-degree range with a little bit of wind, the trees, grasses and flowers let go of their pollen and hope that it will spore,” explains Dr. Miller, who added that his patients started exhibiting symptoms during the second week of February – a couple of weeks earlier than the usual start in March.

Pollen is a different story in an El Niño weather event, as its seasons could last up to 14 days longer than expected. This could spell bad news for those suffering from allergy-related symptoms such as sore throats, headaches, nasal drainage, and shortness of breath.

Sacramento, dubbed as the “city of trees,” is particularly one of the worst off. Clinical lab service Quest Diagnostics’ survey noted that around 36 percent of the city’s residents suffering mold or ragweed allergies, compared to just 20 percent nationwide.

It is a good breeding ground for pollen because of its abundant greenery, paired with mild winter seasons.

Healthcare providers, however, have started to act. Seven Peaks Wellness in the Central Coast, for instance, has revamped its seasonal allergen program and included more native allergens. It injects patients with dilutions of the pollen to help them become resistant over time.

For those who have seasonal allergies, doctors recommend a number of ways to ease symptoms, including limiting outdoor time during those warm, dry, and breezy days. They should also take allergy medications before having contact with spring allergies, leading to much less severe symptoms.

Dr. David Skoner of Allegheny Health Network cited sublingual immunotherapy as a new form of allergy treatment, where ragweed or grass allergy patients can be effectively assisted especially when treatment begins 12 weeks before the season arrives.

This El Niño season is deemed the strongest on record since the 1998 “Millennium drought” that brought unprecedented effects to nations worldwide. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and NASA teamed up to conduct land, sea, and air assessments to investigate the weather pattern that has ravaged the Pacific area.

Photo: Jim Lukach | Flickr

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