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Allergy season came earlier, got stronger in Richmond area this year, experts say

If you are one of the many allergy sufferers in Central Virginia and you feel as if this season came earlier and with greater force, you are not just imagining
Published: Mar. 22, 2022 at 4:42 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - If you are one of the many allergy sufferers here in central Virginia and feel as if this season came earlier and with greater force, you are not just imagining it.

The warmer weather is also packing a punch as pollen counts are spiking earlier this season.

“Over the last 30 years or so, it has gotten stronger on the strongest day so there’s more pollen in the air on the strongest day of the season,” Dr. Jeremy Hoffman, Chief Scientist at the Science Museum of Virginia said. “Also, we can see that strongest day has moved earlier into the spring by about a week and a half...it’s getting worse and it’s worse earlier in the season.”

Hoffman says rising CO2 emissions are pushing temperatures higher, which in turn makes for a longer growing season, creating more pollen.

If the world continues producing carbon-dioxide emissions unchecked, allergy season could kick off up to 40 days earlier and last up to 19 days longer than it does today, according to a study in the journal Nature Communications.

It’s not good news for a region that is already a hotbed for allergies.

“You may not have problems in one part of the country, but when you move to another part of the country, say, central Virginia, your symptoms may be much worse,” Dr. Adam Kaiser with the Pulmonary Associates of Richmond said.

Central Virginia’s abundance of trees also allows pollen to prosper. Dr. Kaiser says those who have asthma struggle this time of year.

“Our job is to keep people out of the emergency departments in the hospital,” Dr. Kaiser said. “We really do see an increase in asthma exacerbations in this area. "

Hoffman says VDH data from hospitals and urgent care centers back that up.

“We see a pretty tight correspondence between when tree pollen, specifically oak pollen, starts to become very prevalent, alongside when people start to go to the urgent care center and emergency department for seasonal allergies,” Hoffman said.

Many allergy sufferers look forward to rain this time of year in hopes pollen will wash away, but allergists say sometimes those storms can stir up mold and pollen and sometimes make symptoms worse.

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