The trees are budding, and Debby Lasater can already feel her allergies kicking up. She was hoping this spring would be better, after a North Texas winter that sometimes felt more like winter in the Midwest, complete with cold and a record snow storm.
"I was hoping it would freeze everything and we wouldn't have any kind of spring," Lasater said.
Unfortunately, that may not be the case, according to Dr. Gary Gross, an allergist at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas. It looks like the winter chill may have only put a temporary chill on all of the things that make us sneeze and wheeze.
Gross said our cold winter may actually make this allergy season worse than past seasons. Extreme cold puts plants under stress. In response, they typically produce more pollen in spring in order to survive, and that can increase the suffering for people allergic to grass and trees.
"Cold air is great to make plants go dormant, so that they aren't producing pollen during the period of time when it's cold," Gross said. "But they're hardy and they come back with a vengeance."
In addition, new research conducted by doctors in Italy shows that pollen levels in the atmosphere have been increasing over the last two decades. Researchers suspect plants may be feeding off of higher levels of the greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide. That may be causing plants to put out more pollen. That means more people are seeking treatment with allergy shots to build a immunity, and medications to treat the symptoms.
For Lasater, it also means spending more days inside to avoid trouble.
"I can tell when I've been outside on a windy day that I'm pretty much going to suffer the next day," Lasater said.