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Mild Winter Heralds Early Sneezin' Season
Date:2/23/2012

By Serena Gordon
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Feb. 23 (HealthDay News) -- That constant sneezing you thought was a winter cold might just be the beginning of your spring allergies instead.

Many areas of the United States have had warmer-than-average winter weather, which is causing trees to start pollinating earlier in some places, according to Dr. Stanley Fineman, president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI).

"What we're finding is the warmer weather is bringing earlier pollination of the trees. Here in Atlanta, we already have unusually high pollen counts for this time of the year, and people are starting to have symptoms already," he said.

Asked if the early start would also mean an early end to allergy season, Fineman said he didn't think so. "I think the spring allergy season will probably be longer. In the past few years, it's seemed to start earlier, but then seems to last as long as usual," he noted.

Another expert agreed. "If you have a warmer winter, it's likely that you'll have a longer and worse pollen season," said Dr. Punita Ponda, an attending physician in the pediatric allergy and immunology division at Cohen Children's Medical Center of New York in New Hyde Park.

But, Ponda pointed out that it's not always a warmer winter that brings more pollen. Last year, it was a particularly wet winter in the New York area, with much greater than normal snowfall.

"Last year was a cold, cold winter with a lot of snow, and it was followed by a pretty impressive pollen season," she said, adding that the longer pollen seasons may actually have more to do with global warming than the year-to-year variations in weather. "So, it may be that next year we'll have a long spring pollen season, whether or not it was a warm winter," she said.

So, how can you tell if your runny nose is caused by a cold or allergies? The biggest clue is time, say the experts. If yo
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