Allergy experts: Pollen is here, 'worst is yet to come'

A man and women taking a stroll through A man and women taking a stroll through in Clark Botanic Garden in Albertson April 18, 2014. A brutal winter has many speculating that the polar vortex will be replaced by a Pollen vortex, leaving allergy sufferers sniffling and miserable. Photo Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams, Jr.

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Allergy sufferers be warned: Pollen's here and this spring the particles might pack quite a punch, allergy experts say.

For the past three weeks or so, Dr. Sherry Farzan said, she's been seeing patients complaining of typical scratchy throats, itchy eyes, sneezing and runny noses.

Indeed, since March, pollen levels have already hit the high range on many days, said Farzan, an allergy and immunology specialist in Great Neck with North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System. She said she points patients to the Pollen.com index, which indicates levels of 9.7 and 10.8, both in the high range, for Sunday and Monday.

The pollen allergy scale runs from 0, lowest, to 12.

Looking ahead, the news may not be so good either, Farzan said, with the winter's high levels of precipitation having encouraged tree growth.

For March, the total precipitation was 5.9 inches, which was 1.46 inches above the norm, according to National Weather Service data. That came on the heels of a string of snowstorms in January and February.

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Once temperatures start rising, she said, there could be "an abrupt increase" in pollen. "We need to plan for the worst," Farzan said.

Dr. Leonard Bielory, an allergist and professor at the Center for Environmental Prediction at Rutgers University in New Jersey, concurs. He agreed that "the worst is yet to come," in part because of the high levels of precipitation that "provide nutrients for trees."

Right around the first day of spring, pollen counts started rising, he said.

In the wake of this year's "tremendous amount of snowfall," the pollen count could possibly reach levels of those in the post-Sandy season, he said.

Dr. Marianne Frieri, chief of allergy and immunology at Nassau University Medical Center, said she saw an uptick in patients with symptoms in the past week or so, several weeks later than usual. She said she's concerned that, thanks to earlier cooler temperatures, tree pollen could be pushed into May and June, overlapping with grass pollen, which would make matters worse for allergy sufferers.

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