'Pollen Tsunami' Causing Misery in the Northeast

Susan Donaldson James
Kiyotsugu Tsukuma | a.collectionRF | Getty Images

Move over, pollen vortex, the pollen tsunami is here.

A ferocious winter, delayed spring and even the beginnings of climate change have created a "pollen tsunami" that is slamming allergy sufferers in the Northeast, says one expert. (Tweet This)

Oak and birch trees — the "big bad" pollen makers — are coming out at the same time as the seasonal ones like poplar, alder and ash. And soon the grass pollens arrive.

"It's a triple whammy," Dr. Clifford Bassett, medical director of Allergy & Asthma Care of New York. "The early and mid-spring tree pollen and the grasses are hitting all at once to create misery and suffering."

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Winter snow and rains fed tree root systems and triggered a "robust response," according to Bassett. And now, a deluge of pollen is irritating susceptible sinuses and leaving its telltale green residue on porches and window sills.

And don't think you are off Scot-free if you live in a big city, said Bassett. Air pollution makes people even more susceptible to allergies.

"It's pretty bad — you can actually see it on your car," said Guy Robinson, who teaches in the natural science department at New York's Fordham University and runs its two pollen testing stations.

But, Robinson said, the pollen numbers are not "unusually high" for the first week of May.

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"We haven't seen anything close to record-breaking."

Does this mean it could get worse?

Experts say if you have allergies, check the pollen count and stay indoors if it's high. Use air conditioning and exercise indoors. Wear a hat and sunglasses when outdoors.

Home cleaning tips for allergy sufferers

  • If you live in the suburbs, don't hang clothes out to dry.
  • Wash your face after going outdoors.
  • Keep pollen-laden clothing out of the bedroom.
  • Keep floors clean.
  • Consider "air-cleaning" indoor plants like English ivy and bamboo palm.

As for the nasty green pollen that lands on the porch, don't sweep, hose it down. "I am allergic myself and I use a wet mop," said Robinson.

Allergist Bassett agrees.

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"Sweeping can drive the smallest pollen particles into your breathable space," said Bassett. "Wear a pollen or dust mask to avoid it or just ask a non-allergy friend [to do it]."