Weather Week: Pollen and Pests

[NECNMIGR] 1062237.jpg
Christina Miralla

(NECN: Jack Thurston) - The change of seasons has meant increased discomfort for allergy sufferers like Lee Wheeler, who manages the store at Vermont's famous Shelburne Museum. "It really hit and it hit hard," Wheeler said of this spring's allergy season. "It's been a particularly hard one for me."

Sneezing, watery eyes, a runny nose, and hoarseness are Wheeler's prime symptoms, she said. Tree pollens seem to be her biggest problems, she added. "Mornings are usually the worst time, and if it's windy, then it's also worse," Wheeler explained. "It's great when it rains, because that pushes all the pollens down."

Dr. Edward Kent's allergy practice in South Burlington, Timber Lane Allergy & Asthma Associates, tracks pollen in the air near Burlington and provides that info to the public here. "Patients really want to know what the pollen counts are," he said, noting that oak pollens have a particular thorn in the side of allergy sufferers as of late, and that grass pollens are right around the corner.

This year, Kent said he has noticed some differences with tree pollens. "Typically we see them in March, but it was really into April before we saw any tree pollens," the allergist said, adding that the harsh winter "almost certainly" delayed the onset of the pollens.

The weather also impacts the way people in the Northeast may experience insects, too. "The ticks are pretty active right now," said Erica Berl, an infectious disease epidemiologist with the Vermont Health Department.

Berl said ticks that can transmit Lyme disease really start being spotted when the temperature climbs above 45 degrees or so. She suggested people enjoying the outdoors stay away from tall grasses, consider wearing insect repellant containing the ingredient DEET, and check themselves and their children from head-to-toe for ticks. Taking a shower shortly after returning home may also wash away ticks that have not had a chance to attach to a host, Berl said.

"A lot of people have asked if the cold winter will affect the number of ticks," she told New England Cable News. "But it really won't. It wasn't severe enough for the ticks, and the ticks can do quite well under the snow cover."

Berl said it's still early for mosquito-borne diseases like West Nile Virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis, but she said the insects are out there right now. The Vermont Health Department suggested, to avoid disease or discomfort that are possible with bites, that people take familiar steps like wearing insect repellant, avoiding exposure at dusk, and reducing the chances mosquitoes will breed near their homes, by doing simple things like emptying kiddie pools.

Coming weather conditions, especially moisture, could play a big role in determining what kind of summer both mosquitoes and humans experience, Berl pointed out. "We can't tell for now what kind of mosquito season we'll have," Berl noted.

For now, Lee Wheeler said she will keep taking her over-the-counter medication to cope with her allergies, determined to not let them keep her from enjoying this spring and the start of summer. "I'm not going to sit inside when it's this gorgeous," she told NECN, smiling. "We do live in Vermont, after all!"

For up-to-the-minute news and weather, be sure to follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook.

Contact Us