Health & Wellness

Rutgers Predicts Record Ragweed Season

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EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ - Prepare for itchy watery eyes, scratchy throats and congestion, as New Jersey heads into what Rutgers University Leonard Bielory, M.D. says will be a very bad allergy season.

Bielory, a specialist in allergy and immunology with the Rutgers Center of Environmental Prediction at the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences, said that the first sighting of a grain of pollen this season came on August 17.  A major release of pollen occurred three days later and continued the next 48 hours. 

 “While this has been the latest onset we have seen over the past five years, the peak will be quite high in the coming weeks due to the heavy rain precipitation we have had over the summer,” said Bielory.

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The effect of weather patterns have a strong impact on pollination, leading to “three out of four Americans who have allergies being allergic to ragweed pollen,” he explained.

Ragweed pollination is expected to continue until the first frost, which means allergy sufferers will be in for a long season.  Daily monitoring of the pollen count appears to be consistent with Bielory's research on climate change and weather patterns affecting pollen release. He and researchers at Rutgers and the U.S. Department of Agriculture have been part of an ongoing study, funded in part by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

A changing climate means allergy-causing ragweed pollen has a longer season that extends further north than it did just 16 years ago and in New Jersey appears to be increasing in duration of exposure. According to the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,

Bielory and other allergy experts found that ragweed pollen season lasted as much as 27 days longer in 2009 than it did in 1995, with increasing range northward resulting in a more dramatic the change in the length of pollen season. Allergies associated with ragweed pollen—3 out of 4 Americans who are allergic have ragweed allergies, also known as hay fever— costs about $21 billion a year in the U.S.

Ragweed pollen is not the only pollen season affected, said Bielory, as the study has shown the impact on tree and grass pollen seasons that occur in the early and late spring. An examination of other species and other regions of the continental United States is ongoing.

As global average temperatures have warmed, the first frost has been delayed, especially at higher latitudes, which has meant a longer season for ragweed. “Because warming is greater at these high latitudes, the length of the season has been more pronounced.”

In New Jersey, the season appears to have increased over the past 20 years. Hot and dry weather in source areas aid the release of ragweed pollen during the flowering season and result in the deep distribution needed to lift the pollen over the greater dispersion.

"Allergies that have been minor in the past are going to increase and become more of a clinical problem that may also impact patients with asthma.” 

So stock up on allergy medicine, tissues, and throat losanges. You are going to need them.

 Email info@nynjpollen.com for more information. For actual pollen counts, visit www.nynjpollencount.com.

 

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