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Winter

Fourth warmest winter 2011-2012: Where does your community rank?

Many attribute our early and intense spring allergy season to our 2011-2012 warm winter. The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recently announced that winter 2011-2012 was the fourth warmest winter on record. The seasonal average temperature was 3.9 degrees above the 20th century average. Where does your community rank? See the map below:

US winter 2011-2012 temp

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This map shows places where the average seasonal temperatures were up to 5 degrees Fahrenheit cooler (darkest blue) or 10 degrees warmer (darkest red) than average, based on observations from 1981-2010.

The most unusually warm temperatures were found in the northern states, especially in the northern Great Plains. In a recent Winter Recap video, Deke Arndt, head of the Climate Monitoring Branch at NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center, explained the reason for the pattern: the jet stream stayed farther north than usual this winter. The whipping, high-altitude winds of the jet stream generally mark the boundary between Arctic air to the north and warmer air to the south.

Adapted from National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Services

What is in bloom from Nov.-Feb. in Port Charlotte, FL?

Hey everyone, I should explain that I am a landscaper by trade, so avoiding the outdoors is impossible. I’ve never had allergies (in my mid 30’s) and when I was last tested a few yrs ago I tested negative for every common allergy. Yet it is like clockwork every year from mid Nov. – about Feb. my nose gets stuffy, sore throat, constant nasal drip that results in a cough. I hate it! Any help is greatly appreciated! – submitted by Chuck, Port Charlotte, Florida

[Note from Lois (AllergyNurse)]: Chuck, some trees bud during late fall and winter, depending on where you live. If you can’t avoid the outdoors, you might consider wearing a mask during the offending months. Hopefully readers from the Port Charlotte area will give you some ideas of what may be blooming there November-February!

If you decide to try a mask, our sponsor National Allergy has a selection of masks you can browse. You can probably find masks locally as well. If you do purchase a mask, be sure to read carefully to be sure you are getting one for outdoor allergens such as pollen and mold. National Allergy also has a cold weather mask that you might want to try, especially if you also have asthma. I don’t believe it protects from pollen, but you could ask them to be sure. The advantage to going with National Allergy is that their Customer Service Representatives are highly trained and very experienced. If you feel a mask may be helpful, you can tell them what your need is, and they will be able to suggest the best mask(s) to meet it.

Reactive airway disease, need dry warm winter

I have asthma that reacts only to cold and chest colds and very bad mold allergies. I was in the house all winter, sick most of the time, couldn’t even attend family activities, and had a deadly case of cabin fever. I know all cities have their pros and cons, but could their be a drier, warmer location for me in winter? I would like to be able go out every now and then. Another possibility for me is to elongate my spring or fall, so if I could travel to a city during its non-mold period; that would be great. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Right now, I feel like I am active only in July and August. – submitted by Sue, Brooklyn, NY

Online allergy map of U.S. by location for travelers

As an allergy nurse, I used an allergy map to show patients which seasonal allergens are prevalent in various regions in the U.S. I found similar map online that I thought you’d enjoy.

The site has good seasonal climate information which concludes with a smart reminder that “if you spend your summers in the north and travel south for the winter, you may experience symptoms throughout the year if you’re allergic to the allergens found in each place.”

View this climate map at Allergies by Geographical Location. We do not have any relationship, affiliation, or advertising arrangement with Clarinex.

Tis the season for winter allergies: Holiday helps

Just when you thought seasonal allergies were gone for the winter, here come the holidays. Christmas trees and holiday decorations can be a source of woe for the allergy sufferer. I’ve gathered some goodies to help you fight back:

Christmas Trees – Mountain Cedar — One in 10 people is allergic to mountain cedar which begins releasing pollen in late November. Most other evergreen trees pollinate during the spring.

While Scotch pines and Douglas firs may be a safer choice, any live Christmas tree can be trouble for mold allergy sufferers.

Washing Off Christmas Tree Helps Curb Allergies according to one story. But just rinsing the tree was not enough. Read the story to see how a fruit and vegetable cleaner was used to clean the tree.

Don’t think just because you have an artificial tree you’re allergy-free, though. Artificial trees and holiday decorations often gather mold and dust during storage. When you bring them out during the dry winter months, the dust and mold spores can easily be dispersed in the air.

To prevent this, wipe dusty items with a wet cloth. Launder cloth items and discard any moldy decorations that cannot easily be cleaned. Dry thoroughly before storage and store covered in a dry area to prevent mold growth and dust accumulation.

Avoiding Allergens During the Holidays — Want more ideas? Here’s a host of holiday tips for allergy sufferers from Discovery Health.

Cedar is on its way!

Much of the U.S. is either well past the first frost of the season, or about enter this doorway that heralds relief from Ragweed symptoms. But as you cross the threshold, beware. Cedar is on it’s way!

Two of the most common Cedars that cause allergies in the U.S., Mountain Cedar and Eastern Redcedar (also called Eastern Red Cedar), are actually Junipers. Cedar/Juniper is the most common winter pollen allergen in the U.S.

Cedar usually pollinates from November through March in the U.S. But in some areas or seasons it can start pollinating as early as October, and it can continue as late as May.

Cedar is quite a loner. Sometimes a person is allergic to multiple trees as well as Cedar. But we often find that a patient will be allergic to most of the trees we test for — except Cedar. Other times we will see a Cedar allergy without allergy to any other tree. Of course, this can happen with other trees too. But it happens most frequently with Cedar.

So if you are one of those who sniffle and sneeze during Cedar season, get ready. Stock up on your allergy medicine and close the all the windows and doors. Because Cedar is coming!

See also from Wikipedia:
Juniperus virginiana (Eastern Redcedar).
Juniperus ashei (Mountain Cedar).

Massachusetts reports record warm winter temps

From California to New England, and from Iowa to Texas, allergy season is upon us. Reports are coming in from all but the northern-most states of spring allergies in the air.

MetroWestDailyNews.com reported today that in spite of the “unseasonably cold temperatures for the past 10 days,” record warm January temps in Massachusetts mean allergy season is soon to arrive. The article, which reported January temps of 7 to 9 degrees above average in Boston and Worcester, says, “Low-level tree pollen has already spread across most of the state.”

Of interest to those of us in the south-central area where ragweed season starts in the fall, the article cited above also reports that a warm January “is allowing the ragweed to come out earlier.”

Warm weather brings early allergy season

Throughout February, and as early as January 3, reports of an early 2006 allergy season related to warm weather were blending with reports of a lingering 2005 allergy season related to rain, drought, wind, or unseasonably warm temperature. (See our January 22 report at AllergyNursing.com.)

On February 27, Radio Iowa called this “one of Iowa’s warmest winters on record.” According to the report, “quite a few people are coming in to [a local] drug store with what appears to be cold or flu-like symptoms — but they’re actually spring allergies.”

February 14 — From the California Bay area, MercuryNews.com reported: “Area allergists are reporting a surge in business…”

February 11 — From Snora, CA, MyMotherLode.com reported: “The sun has been shining more than expected, bringing allergies with the warm weather…”

January 3 — From Corpus Christi, TX, KRISTV.com reported: “Our warm weather so far this winter has been bad news for allergy sufferers.”

See also our February 4, and February 8 reports from EyesApart.com

Severe allergy season

According to a news item from WALB-TV in Albany, Georgia, the warm winter season is making allergies worse in South Georgia. WALB-TV reports, “A warm winter means an early and severe allergy season.”

This unseasonably warm winter is setting the stage for a severe allergy season in many parts of the U.S. So when you evaluate a climate for the degree of allergies, keep in mind that in some areas they may be more severe this year than usual.

According to WALB-TV, local allergist Larry Smith warns, “This is only the tip of the iceberg. Pollen levels will increase even more so within the next few weeks.”

Read the entire WALB-TV news report here.

Unusually warm weather = early allergy problems

According to WMFY News 2 in Lexington, North Carolina, “sniffling, watery eyes, sneezing and coughing are symptoms you usually deal with in the springtime. But this unusually warm weather is causing early allergy problems for many people.”

Many areas of the US have experienced unseasonably warm weather all winter. For many, the allergy season never stopped. Now that spring is around the corner, some wonder if they have missed the usual winter relief altogether.