Allergy Season isn’t Really ‘Seasonal’ Anymore: Here’s Why

As countries in the Northern Hemisphere transition from summer into autumn and winter, many of us might assume pollen allergy will disappear until next spring. However, this may not necessarily be the case – let’s explore why our traditional understanding of global pollen ‘seasons’ may no longer measure up.

Pollen Seasons Today Are More Unpredictable

Pollen seasons across the world are becoming longer and more unpredictable, due in part to climate change factors. This unpredictability has the potential to make things more difficult for allergy sufferers as well as treatment providers – as it gets harder to predict when symptoms will flare up, and when allergy medication might be needed.

To give an example, a recent study found climate change has increased average pollen seasons in North America by 20 days over the past three decades. As higher CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere make our planet heat up over time, leading to warmer winters and earlier springs, some plants start their pollen production earlier in the year. Allergy severity has also worsened, as around 21% more pollen is produced.

The Implications of Longer Allergy Seasons 

As allergy seasons become more unpredictable, the health threat for those with sensitivities risks becoming an ongoing affair, not merely a periodical event:

Some doctors find patients are reporting worse symptoms earlier than before. Yale Medicine allergists agree with this trend, noting also that frequent sinus infections can lead to additional respiratory symptoms, including asthma and bronchitis.

To put this into cost terms, over a decade ago, annual direct medical costs of seasonal allergy in the US were estimated at $3.4 billion. As of 2020, the same annual expenses have been reported to be as high as $11.2 billion (!)

How Seasonal Unpredictability Drives Costs Up

The more unpredictable pollen seasons become, the less reliable traditional pollen prediction calendars become. Since care providers can’t fully rely on traditional pollen production schedules like they used to, it becomes harder to plan for when and where there might be spikes in demand for seasonal allergy-related treatment.

Failing to provide the right treatment at the right time could leave seasonal allergy sufferers at increased risk of worsened symptoms.

The Need for Behavior Change

Changing pollen seasons means allergy management needs to become more of a daily practice for individuals: Many health experts now recommend patients take medication sooner in the year and implement regular self-protection to protect against allergy flare-ups.

As part of this move towards different forms of positive behavior change, new types of pollen intelligence (explained more below) is playing a larger role in allergy sufferers’ treatment plans: Individuals are being empowered to make more informed choices on a regular basis: Where to go for a picnic, when to take allergy medicine, even when to hang the laundry.

ALK is the perfect example of an allergy specialist committed to providing these kinds of holistic insights-based treatment plans, and they’ve seen some great outcomes in terms of engagement.

Reinventing the Idea of Pollen Forecasting ‘as Usual’

Traditional manual pollen reporting methods come with limited geographical coverage, frequent significant delays, and can lack specificity. There’s also no option for next-day forecasting with these methods – essential for managing allergies.

Pollen monitoring Station

To ensure reliable and health-focused daily pollen reporting and forecasts that are also personalized for individual users, healthcare has been required to move beyond traditional methods of reporting.

By integrating new forms of pollen intelligence based on sophisticated modeling and multiple data layers such as land cover maps, as well as climate and weather data, existing insights can be strengthened to deliver forecast information that is far more comprehensive and reliable.

BreezoMeter’s pollen reporting, an example of this new pollen intelligence, can successfully forecast pollen levels, report hyperlocal health risk ratings categorized by tree, weed, and grass pollen, alongside 13 different specific plant species.

In addition to better empowering individual sufferers, this new approach helps healthcare providers overcome some of the challenges of seasonal unpredictability by understanding where and when to prioritize medicine supply and their messaging.

Learn more about BreezoMeter’s unique approach to pollen forecasting in the below guide. (You can also keep up to date with the pollen levels where you are here)

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Dr Yvonne Boose
Dr Yvonne Boose

Data and Accuracy Lead Scientist @BreezoMeter. I hold a PhD in Atmospheric Physics and formerly worked as a Postdoc at the German Aerospace Center. I love translating science to real-life improvements at BreezoMeter.