Cold Winter Means Healthy Trees -- and Pollen

Apr 15, 2014

Credit Fuse / Thinkstock

Now that the long winter is over, spring is here. So is tree pollen.

"The runny nose is a small price to pay not to see the snow covering everywhere."
Jeff Ward

This winter was cold -- maybe not colder than average, but colder than the past three or four. Cold winters make for healthy trees; healthy trees mean a lot of pollen.

"The cold meant that we didn't have any buds that were opening prematurely, which has been a problem in past years," said Jeff Ward, chief scientist of forestry and horticulture at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station. "Right now, we've got our red maples are starting to flower. The elms, the birches are flowering. The aspens are flowering."

Ward also said this year's pollen count could prove to be higher because red maples produce a lot of seeds every other year.

"Last year, they didn't produce many seeds," he said. "This year, they're flowering to beat the band."

A flowering red maple.
Credit Liz West / Creative Commons
A pollen-covered car is a common sight at this time of year.
Credit Stephen Terry / Creative Commons

Jason Lee, a doctor at Connecticut Asthma and Allergy Center, expects a maximum-strength allergy season. He's already seen kids with itchy eyes and runny noses.

"As I tell my patients every year," Lee said, "you just want to really try to decrease the exposure. You want to keep bedroom windows closed. You make sure you take showers in the evening to wash the pollens off. You want try to really limit the outdoor activity early morning and late afternoon when the pollen counts are high."

Ward, the tree scientist, said he has allergies, too. "But it's just so beautiful," he said. "And with spring out there right now, and with everything starting to bloom everywhere, the runny nose, I think, is a small price to pay not to see the snow covering everywhere, just to have that beautiful outdoors that we have."

Lee said the good news is that most people are better by the beginning of June.