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GardenSMART :: Will El Niño Make This Allergy Season Worse?

Will El Niño Make This Allergy Season Worse?

By Ashleigh Schmitz Morley,
Photographs courtesy of

The spring allergy season is just around the corner, which means it's almost time to stock up on tissues, nasal spray and anything else you use to beat the incoming "pollen vortex." A few factors, including the mostly mild winter thus far and the presence of El Niño, could mean that the 2016 spring allergy season will be bigger and badder than previous years.

(MORE: How Weather Impacts Spring Allergies)

"In any year with an El Niño phenomenon, we expect certain areas of the country, particularly in the South, to be plagued by lots of rainfall and precipitation," Dr. Clifford Bassett, founder and medical director at Allergy and Asthma Care of New York told "Each year it’s different. If you look at the aero biology, you have a lot of different pollen areas. There’s a lot of cities [in the South] that are hit hard each year during the spring allergy season."

This slideshow lists out the 2015 spring allergy capitals. The list for 2016 has not been released by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America yet, but many of the cities make appearances on this list year after year. 

As a result of El Niño and the wet winter many parts of the country are seeing, Dr. Bassett predicts that, "we’re going to see very healthy root systems in trees and that nature. So when the season starts kicking in, the root systems are primed and they’re going to release pollen earlier."

(MORE: The Surprising Reason You May Want to Rethink That Glass of Wine)

In addition to El Niño's potential effect on this year's spring allergy season, Dr. Bassett also pointed to an overarching trend: the spring allergy season has been inching up on our calendars for years now.

"In general over the last ten years or more, we’ve seen an earlier start to the spring allergy season by about two weeks," Dr. Bassett said. "Each year is different. You’re mostly seeing a longer season spring through fall because of warmer temperatures.”

Dr. Bassett also pointed to climate change, which sets off its own chain reaction where pollen and allergies are concerned. "[Climate change] is causing more carbon dioxide in our environment, which in turn tells a lot of plants to produce more pollen, and the pollen itself is more supercharged and more powerful."

The bottom line? According to Dr. Bassett, some parts of the country can look forward to a spring allergy season that starts as soon as mid-February. If you live in a part of the country that has seen a particularly wet and mild winter, start preparing for spring allergies sooner rather than later. Your sinuses will thank you.

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