Suffer from seasonal allergies? Depending on where you live, you may already be sneezing, sniffling and rubbing your itchy eyes.
And you may be in for a whopper of a spring.
The first pollen culprit each year is typically trees. If rainfall was good the year before, resulting in solid tree growth, that typically means healthy trees. Combine that with relatively warm forecasts with no more freezing temperatures on the horizon and it's a perfect storm of pollen-filled trees.
Right now in late February, that means the spring pollen allergy season has already kicked in for most of the Midwest and Southeast, says Charles Barnes, Ph.D., director of the allergy and immunology laboratory at Children's Mercy Kansas City and a fellow with the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.
"We've noticed this year there are pollen counts coming in even earlier than last year," says Barnes. "It seems that the Midwest and Southeast are early and high, but the Northeast and far West are about normal."
He says counts appear to be earlier and higher this year at pollen count stations in the middle of the U.S. including Oklahoma City; Austin, Texas; Kansas City, Missouri; Lexington, Kentucky; and Dayton, Ohio. Stations in the Southeast also are reporting earlier counts this year. There's even at least one station in southern California and one in Southern Colorado reporting earlier and higher counts than normal. Stations in the Northeast, however, appear to be later or about the same as usual.
The pollen count station in Springfield, New Jersey just started collecting data, says Barnes, and levels are low.
Although pollen-counting stations in Minnesota and Wisconsin haven't started collecting any data yet, there already have been counts in Omaha, Nebraska, and Chicago.
"Normally you think of Nebraska in April and you think snow cover, but they don't have snow, they have trees pollinating," Barnes says. "And Chicago has high juniper, oak and maple levels already and that's pretty far north."
To check the pollen counts so far in your area, check out the National Allergy Bureau reports.
Pollen getting earlier and earlier
The spring allergy season has been starting earlier for years now, Dr. Clifford Bassett, founder and medical director at Allergy and Asthma Care of New York, told Weather.com
"In general over the last 10 years or more, we’ve seen an earlier start to the spring allergy season by about two weeks," Bassett said. "Each year is different. You’re mostly seeing a longer season spring through fall because of warmer temperatures."
Bassett also suggested that climate change plays a part.
"[Climate change] is causing more carbon dioxide in our environment, which in turn tells a lot of plants to produce more pollen, and the pollen itself is more supercharged and more powerful."
Of course tree pollen isn't the only thing allergy sufferers have to worry about. Just when you're starting to get relief from the trees, that's typically when the grasses start releasing their pollen.
"Grass season typically starts in May and can run through June (at least in St. Louis). Predicting that far in advance is difficult," say Barnes.
Better stock up on the tissues and antihistamines.
Editor's note: This file was originally published in March 2016 and has been updated.