It’s not your imagination. The allergy season is longer and more intense these days.

A high pollen count generally means increased risks of allergy symptoms, although individual sensitivities vary, said Ray, who noted that pollen allergies have historically been particularly severe in New England.

A small pond at Norris Reserve in Norwell was covered in pollen on Tuesday. David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

The air has become laden with pollen in recent days, coating surfaces with yellow dust. This week, pollen counts in Boston remain above average, with 4,321 pollen grains per cubic meter of air recorded by Weather Channel on Tuesday morning. A tree pollen count above 1,500 is considered “very high” according to the National Allergy Bureau, an independent organization that lists and analyzes pollen and other allergens.

What makes this year so bad?

There are more allergens in the air than two decades ago, and the regular summer allergy season lasts more than two weeks longer than before, fueled in large part by warmer temperatures, according to clinical Aleena Banerji. high and an increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Director of the Allergy and Clinical Immunology Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital.

She also said the number of people wearing masks, which can help block pollen and other allergens, has dropped sharply.

“There are several reasons to explain it,” Banerji said. “A big part of that is climate change, and it’s also just the fact that maybe some of us were wearing masks and decreasing exposure and now none of us are.”

Climate change is making the pollen season longer and more intense, according to a March study, which found the allergy season was 15 days longer, on average than in 1970. Boston saw an increase of 13 days during this period.

Higher temperatures and increased carbon dioxide in the air cause plants to grow larger, which increases the amount of pollen they release.

Are there better or worse times for pollen exposure?

Meteorologist Dave Epstein, writing for the Boston Globe, said trees shed pollen early in the morning and pollen counts tend to peak around midday before dropping overnight. But as the pollen-filled air cools overnight, it falls to the ground, bringing with it dense concentrations of the powdery substance.

“Closing windows without air filtration has its own issues. Choose your preference,” he posted on Twitter. “If you’re bothered by pollen, the shade probably doesn’t matter.”

In an email, Epstein added that the rain temporarily removes pollen from the air, but this month of May has been extremely dry after an unusually hot and dry start to the season.

“We know that the rain definitely carries away the pollen, so we sometimes tell individuals to go for a run or exercise after the rain,” Banerji said.

But increased humidity can also make allergies worse, as pollen becomes damp and heavy, creating the “tennis ball fuzz” that coats cars and sidewalks, Ray said.

How can I manage my allergies?

Ray said people with severe symptoms should try to limit time outdoors, run air conditioning or filters if possible, and take over-the-counter medications, especially nasal sprays, which she says , provide the most consistent relief.

She said daily metrics, including pollen counts and allergy indices, are helpful in predicting the severity of her allergies.

Ray recommends allergy shots for people with severe symptoms. Shots are more effective than other treatments, she says, but require repeated injections over several months – a time commitment not everyone can make.

Banerji said checking daily numbers tends to be less useful than considering longer-term trends in pollen spread and its own symptoms.

“It’s not just about today, it’s about your exposure over the past few days or weeks,” Banerji said. “If you want to go for a run and it’s wet, the pollen count is high, you have to remember that. But at the same time, it’s not just about this time. It’s about yesterday. and the day before yesterday too.

She emphasized establishing a baseline — and starting allergy medication as early as St. Patrick’s Day — as the best way to ease symptoms.

How long should I last?

Ray said the next two weeks will be “really, really tough” for allergy sufferers.

She said the tree pollen season will likely continue until June when grass pollen picks up and humidity rises, but residents could get a respite in July and early August.

“But then,” she said, “we’re running into ragweed season.”


Daniel Kool can be contacted at daniel.kool@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @dekool01.

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