June 24, 2019 | 72° F

Environmental scientists anticipate explosion of pollen this spring

Photo by Naaz Modan |

For perpetual allergy sufferers, this spring is expected to bring an increased amount of pollen due to to the long cold season, which has delayed the growth of grass and weeds and the incoming allergy season. When the weather stays warm, the pollen count will be increasing, bringing allergy sufferers a slew of symptoms, including congestion, coughing and hives. 

Nobody can seem to wait for spring to arrive after this chilly winter, but there is no anticipation for the pollen that comes with the seasons changing. 

Because this winter was a colder and longer season, pollination is expected to occur later and be much more intense, said Leonard Bielory, past director of UMDNJ-Asthma and Allergy Research Center. 

Bielory told CBS News that he has never seen a late release like this in the many years he has been studying climate.

The pollination will be so intense, one may see clouds of pollen, which look like yellow-green mists in the air, Bielory said. There will also be an overlapping of pollen being released, where cedar and maple will mix with oak and birch.

Weather plays a direct role in the release of pollen and severity of allergy season, according to an article in Consumer Affairs. The longer winter lasts, the stronger allergy season will be expected.

A long, cold and wet winter causes pollination to start later and end earlier but also be much more powerful, according to the Consumer Affairs article. Plants produce more flowers and fewer leaves, resulting in an increase of pollen.

Steve Decker, a teaching instructor in the Department of Environmental Sciences, said the weather this spring has been cold so far and is expected to continue.

“This has delayed the growth of grass and weeds and leaf-out of trees, so you could certainly say allergy season has been delayed this year," he said. "Eventually, we will start to have warmer weather more consistently, so those pollen counts will be increasing."

It is not expected to be a walk in the park this spring for those who experience allergies. Worse symptoms can be expected, and it is recommended to prepare in advance, according to Consumer Affairs. This year has the potential to become the worst allergy season ever.

Physicians have already been seeing an increase in patients suffering from allergies, according to Consumer Affairs.

Symptoms such as sneezing, watery eyes and fatigue are increasing even among those who do not usually suffer from allergies. A stuffy nose, congestion, a cough, a sore throat, hives and irritability are also common symptoms, according to WebMD. 

There are many ways to either prevent or reduce suffering from allergies, according to WebMD. 

Checking the pollen counts forecast before going out, avoiding the outdoors as the sun rises and sets, showering and washing your clothes after being outdoors and acquiring the correct medication all help reduce symptoms, according to Consumer Affairs.

Rutgers Health Centers provide multiple brands of allergy medication available to all students, according to the Rutgers Health Center website. Those include, Claritan, Allegra, Zertec and Benedril and generic brands for cheaper prices. Nasal sprays and eye drops are also available.

There are three pharmacies on campus where students can purchase these medications, according to the Rutgers Health Center website. These include, Hurtado Health Center on the College Avenue Campus, Willets Telepharmacy on the Douglass campus and Busch-Livingston Telepharmacy on the Livingston campus. 

Rutgers Health Services do not cover allergy medication, but the pharmacy accepts many insurance plans and out-of-pocket payment, according to the website. 

Shahar Platt, a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student, said she has been experiencing symptoms of allergies that she has never had before.

At first, she said she thought her constant sneezing and watery eyes were signs of a cold. 

“I couldn’t wait for spring — the nice weather, the flowers blooming, school ending," she said. "Now I am dreading it and all the allergies I am expecting."

Noa Halff

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