Blame pumpkin patches, Oklahoma, Texas and warm weather for those late-season allergy and asthma flare-ups, experts say.
Jay Portnoy, director of allergy, asthma immunology for Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Mo., said excessive mold at pumpkin patches consistently prompts asthma symptoms and mold sensitivity around Halloween.
But he said Kansas also has unusually high levels of pollen from juniper plants in Oklahoma and Texas that travel to Wichita and Kansas via blustery winds. And the lack of cool weather in Wichita has dragged out allergy season.
Portnoy said pollens cause hay fever and allergies, while molds trigger asthma and lung disease.
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Each person with allergies has a unique allergy pattern, he said, so some people will be particularly allergic to juniper, while others can be unaffected by it.
A pollen count is measured by the number of pollen grains in a cubic meter of air. The higher the number, the more people will likely suffer with allergies.
Kansas’ pollen count right now has 59 pollen grains of juniper per cubic meter, which is considered high – especially for this time of year.
Colder weather will bring relief, but it’s unclear when exactly cold weather will arrive.
Wichita’s mild winter, early summer and warm fall created doozies for people with allergies and asthma.
Andy Kleinsasser, meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Wichita, said Wichita’s weather has been unusually warm compared to previous years dating back to 1888, when the National Weather Service began keeping records.
Thus far this year, Wichita had the:
▪ Third-warmest year on record – taking into account Jan. 1 through October.
▪ Second-wettest year on record.
▪ Warmest October since 1963 and the fifth-warmest on record.
We’ve been setting a lot of record highs.
Andy Kleinsasser, meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Wichita
“We’ve been setting a lot of record highs,” he said.
Kleinsasser said the lack of cool weather kept flowers in bloom.
“I have some flowers out my front door, and as of this morning, there were still bees pollinating – that seems unusual,” he said.
This comes after early blooms and pollination last spring.
He said a polar jet stream usually travels south from Canada and creates a delineation for cool air to the north and warm air to the south. But he said the polar jet stream hasn’t yet dipped south to cool Kansas.
He said the National Weather Service’s winter outlook predicts a slight probability for a warmer-than-normal winter. But, he said, “Those chances are pretty slim.”
Last year’s warm winter was caused by one of the strongest El Nino patterns on record. El Nino is a warm weather pattern that results from variations in ocean temperatures.
But this year, Kleinsasser said, Kansas is expected to have a weeklong La Nina, which would bring opposite effects and shouldn’t affect weather as intensely as last year’s El Nino.
Pollen counts in the future
If allergies are bad right now, just wait until 2040.
A researcher at the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology predicts pollen counts will more than double by 2040, according to a 2012 study. The study attributes the rise to climate change.
This year, Wichita ranked sixth in the nation for the “Most Challenging Places to Live with Spring Allergies,” according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.
Wichita ranked sixth in the nation for the “Most Challenging Places to Live with Spring Allergies” and first for allergies among Midwest cities.
The foundation releases a yearly ranking of 100 cities called Spring Allergy Capitals.
Wichita ranked first for allergies among Midwest cities.
The report uses pollen scores, allergy medicine usage and availability of board-certified allergists to determine the ranks. Meda Pharmaceuticals, a company that makes allergy medication, paid for the report.
Portnoy, the director of allergy, asthma immunology, said even though it’s past traditional allergy season, people should continue taking allergy medication and consult a doctor if their allergy or asthma symptoms overpower their regular treatment.
“People are still having symptoms, even though it’s November,” he said.
Fall to-do list for furnaces
▪ Check furnace ventilation to make sure it’s properly routed outside and not emitting carbon monoxide into the home.
▪ Change furnace filters.
▪ Check for any servicing that needs to be done.
▪ Turn on humidifiers to begin putting moisture in the air.
Source: Jay Portnoy, director of allergy, asthma immunology for Children’s Mercy Hospital