Season of sneezing and allergies hits B.C. as weather heats up

Spring has returned alongside allergies and this year, the season of sneezing is more drawn out than usual.

Dr. Donald Stark, an allergist and clinical associate professor at the University of British Columbia's Faculty of Medicine, says the type of weather since January — rainy periods followed by warm sunny days — is creating a more prolonged allergy season across the Lower Mainland.

"Part of the problem this year is the pollen started to come out over little blasts through a longer time period," Stark told Stephen Quinn, host of The Early Edition.

"We've had little dribs and drabs of it, so it sort of perpetuates the season longer even though the symptoms may not be as severe at one particular point in time."

Climate change and allergies

The amount of pollen hanging in the air is the biggest concern for seasonal allergies, Dr. Stark said. But the weather affects how long the pollen stays there.

Rain helps wash pollen away while hot, sunny weather causes it to hang in the atmosphere longer.  

"We are warming up sooner so the pollen comes out earlier,' he said.

Tim Takaro, associate dean for research at Simon Fraser University's Faculty of Health Sciences, studies the health impacts of climate change.

Takaro says the extension of the pollination season because of warmer weather is a problem for those suffering allergies.

"We're finding that these flowering trees, for example, are changing where they grow and the [blooming] season is getting longer," he told Dan Burritt, host of CBC's B.C. Almanac. 

Prolonged tree season

British Columbians are having a particularly rough time with seasonal allergies, according to Dr. Stark.

"We have probably a more severe, longer tree [pollination] season that the rest of the country," he said. 

"We have the problem of a prolonged tree season with trees, that cross-react with our pollen so it does produce a more miserable time for the people who are allergic to the tree pollens," Dr. Stark added.

To avoid pollen, the Allergy/Asthma Information Association recommends: closing windows, removing shoes and clothes before coming indoors, avoiding the outside on windy days, using an antihistamine before exposure and rinsing nose with salted water if exposed to pollen.

With files from The Early Edition and B.C. Almanac.