When we hear the words ‘pollen season,’ the first images that often come to mind are picturesque scenes of colorful spring flowers and pleasant, warm temperatures. While it's true that spring is a significant contributor to pollen season, the reality is that this phenomenon extends far beyond the blossoming of flowers. Pollen season is a complex and year-round occurrence that affects millions of people worldwide.
Spring: February - May
The arrival of spring often brings sneezes, itchy eyes, breathing difficulties, and skin allergies, all thanks to trees and their pollen. The microscopic nature of pollen renders it invisible in the air, leaving us oblivious to the start of the season until the onset of symptoms. These allergies are often triggered by plants that disperse their pollen through the wind and find their way into our eyes, noses, mouths, and skin.
Summer: May - June
Late spring and the onset of early summer bring with them a specific set of allergy challenges, primarily revolving around grass pollen. These grasses start their pollination journey in May, reaching their peak towards the end of the month and continuing through the initial weeks of June.
The hot, dry weather in July offers a brief break for those affected by pollen allergies. Trees and grasses cease their pollination activities during this period and the dearth of rain results in relatively low mold spore counts. The pollination process of fall plants is yet to start.
Fall: August - November
With the advent of fall, weed pollination stages a comeback, with a resurgence of allergy symptoms or ‘hay fever.’ These fall allergy symptoms are primarily attributable to ragweed pollen and several other weed plants. As autumn progresses, mold spore counts tend to surge, particularly with the shedding of leaves and the demise of plants. Engaging in gardening with mulch or soil, farming activities, or hiking in wooded areas can heighten exposure to mold spores during this season.
Winter: December - January
The sole allergen of concern during winter is mold. Mold flourishes best when temperatures hover above freezing and the environment is damp, often following rainfall. During warmer spells in winter, mold spore counts can experience temporary surges, which might catch mold-allergic individuals off guard.
Climate change has a significant impact on pollen seasons, leading to several effects, most notable being prolonged, intensified, and altered pollen seasons. Rising temperatures and increased levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere can stimulate plants to produce more pollen and for longer durations. This can extend the duration and intensity of pollen seasons, leading to more prolonged periods of discomfort for allergy sufferers.
Climate change can also disrupt the traditional timing of pollen seasons. Warmer winters can prompt plants to start pollinating earlier in the year, catching people off guard and exacerbating allergy symptoms.
The impact: With extended pollen seasons, individuals with allergies face longer exposure periods, increasing their overall allergy-related health risks. Prolonged and intense pollen seasons can contribute to a higher incidence of asthma and allergic respiratory conditions, as individuals with mild allergies may develop more severe symptoms. Altered pollen seasons make it challenging for healthcare providers to accurately diagnose and treat allergies, as traditional pollen calendars may no longer apply.
Let's shine a spotlight on another challenge: El Niño.
And yes, there's a clear connection between El Niño and the prolonged pollen seasons.
El Niño is a climate phenomenon characterized by the periodic warming of sea surface temperatures in the central and eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean. While its primary impacts are related to weather and climate patterns, El Niño can indirectly affect pollen seasons in various ways.
Now that El Niño has been declared by NOAA, it is expected to make a much stronger impact than it did before. Again, all thanks to climate change.
2016 was the warmest year on record due to the combination of the two, and since then, the climate has only gotten worse. El Niño is expected to bring a more intense pollen season and increase the symptoms of allergies among vulnerable populations.
Watch our video about the impact of El Niño on seasonal allergies.
How about we add another challenge to the mix? Let's talk about urbanization.
By 2050, it's expected that 68% of the world's population will reside in cities. That’s a lot of people. This leads to increased pollution and allergies. For instance, in Uganda, it was found that urban areas have double the rates of asthma and allergic rhinitis compared to rural areas. A major contributor to this issue is air pollution, which directly impacts pollen grains and heightens our susceptibility to allergies.
High pollution levels on the ground make it easier for even smaller amounts of pollen to trigger allergies. Urban environments also create heat islands, which are significantly warmer than rural areas. These warmer conditions cause trees and plants to produce more pollen, extending the allergy season.
Learn more about pollen-caused diseases an expert’s POV.
The answer is quite simple: Instead of waiting for pollen season to begin, take proactive steps and plan in advance. Stay prepared for all seasons and stay one step ahead of the pollen.
And the key to doing that is pollen data.
Pollen data can help businesses with:
To encapsulate, pollen data offers diverse business opportunities, from predictive models and interactive maps to healthcare integration and wearable tech innovation. Moreover, long-term pollen trend forecasts derived from climate change projections aid healthcare professionals and policymakers in making informed decisions for the future. These diverse uses underscore the versatility and significance of pollen data for businesses and healthcare professionals alike.
Ambee provides hyperlocal real-time, forecast, and historical pollen data. To explore how our pollen offerings can elevate your products to the next level, don't hesitate to contact us or leave a comment below.