Colourful spring flowers and trees bloom as people visit the arboretum in Ottawa on Wednesday, May 12, 2021. Experts say higher than normal pollen levels have led to a snifflier allergy season in parts of Canada this year. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Colourful spring flowers and trees bloom as people visit the arboretum in Ottawa on Wednesday, May 12, 2021. Experts say higher than normal pollen levels have led to a snifflier allergy season in parts of Canada this year. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

High pollen levels to blame for worse allergy season, experts say

Reports of runnier noses and itchier throats aren’t just anecdotal — they’re borne out by the numbers

Experts say higher than normal pollen levels have led to a sneezier allergy season in parts of Canada this year.

They point to an earlier blossom and warmer May, which led to an explosion of pollen in southern Ontario and Quebec.

A thin coat of yellow dust has blanketed much of Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal.

Chris Scott, chief meteorologist at the Weather Network, says he can’t recall ever before seeing pollen accumulate on his car the way it has this year.

He says the weather has had something to do with the amount of pollen out there.

Temperatures remained cool throughout much of April before quickly warming up in May, and Scott says it was like “the switch flipped.”

“It’s probably one of the quickest I’ve seen vegetation just go from buds on a tree to full leaf, where within about 10 days, all of that happens,” he said. “That spring greenup happened very quickly…and so it’s producing all of the pollen that we saw this month.”

Reports of runnier noses and itchier throats aren’t just anecdotal — they’re borne out by the numbers, said Daniel Coates, the director of the Ottawa-based Aerobiology Research Laboratories.

Montreal saw pollen levels of roughly 29,000 grains per cubic metre during parts of May, he said, compared to about 16,000 grains per cubic metre over the last five years or so.

The contrast is even starker when compared to last year, when pollen levels were at just 6,000 grains per cubic metre, Coates said.

He said other parts of the country — such as the Atlantic provinces — are also seeing higher pollen levels than normal, but not to the same extent as Ontario and Quebec.

In addition to the warmer temperatures, the lack of precipitation has added to the pollen problems in central Canada, he said.

“Rain washes the pollen out of the air,” he said, noting that allergy-sufferers should take advantage of the time right after it rains to get outside without having to worry about runny noses or itchy throats.

“For all the allergy sufferers, the best thing to do is avoid it,” Coates said. “And the best way to avoid it is to know what’s in the air.”

He recommended checking the daily pollen levels online.

But beyond the weather, Coates said, urban planning also has an effect on allergies.

“Cities like to plant male trees,” he said. “…Female trees make fruits and flowers, and then they fall and make messes. Male trees don’t, but they really affect allergy-sufferers.”

Ultimately, Coates said, it’s normal for pollen levels to fluctuate, and it’s not a sign of the “pollen apocalypse.”

“Mother Nature’s just doing her thing,” he said.

Nicole Thompson, The Canadian Press

Weather

Just Posted

Black Press file photo
RCMP seek suspect in Vancouver Island-wide crime spree

Crimes stretched from Deep Bay to Qualicum, Ladysmith, Chemainus and Youbou

Things are looking up for Vancouver Island as zero COVID-19 cases have been reported for the first time since October. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Island records zero new COVID-19 cases for the first time since October

For the first time since October, the province is reporting zero new… Continue reading

The remains of the Mid-Island Co-op in Whiskey Creek along the Alberni Highway on Friday, June 18, after a blaze the day before devastated the gas station. (Michael Briones photo)
VIDEO: Whiskey Creek gas station destroyed by fire after camper van explosion

Nine fire departments responded to the incident, no injuries reported

New Vancouver Island University chancellor Judith Sayers was sworn in at a virtual ceremony June 17. (Submitted photo)
VIU’s new chancellor seeks innovation and equality in post-secondary education

Judith Sayers officially sworn in as Vancouver Island University chancellor

A small pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins pass by close to shore in Campbell River June 16, 2021. Still capture from video courtesy of Kimberly Hart
VIDEO: Dolphin sunset captured from Vancouver Island shore

Spectacular setting for view of travelling pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins

New research suggests wolves can be steered away from the endangered caribou herds they prey on by making the man-made trails they use to hunt harder to move along. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Culling cutlines, not B.C. wolves, key to preserving caribou herds: researcher

The government has turned to killing hundreds of wolves in an effort to keep caribou around

Gary Abbott (left) and Louis De Jaeger were two of the organizers for the 2014 Spirit of the People Powwow in Chilliwack. Monday, June 21, 2021 is Indigenous Peoples Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of June 20 to 26

Indigenous Peoples Day, Take Your Dog to Work Day, Onion Rings Day all coming up this week

Gwen Spencer Hethey with her uncle and mentor Major Frederick Richardson. (Courtesy of Greater Victoria Sports Hall of Fame)
‘She was a killer’: The B.C. woman who pioneered female sharpshooting

Gwen Spencer Hethey made military men ‘look like turkeys’ says her son

Central Okanagan Grade 12 grads are set to get $500 each after a more than $1 million donation from a Kelowna couple. (File photo)
B.C. couple donating $500 to every Grade 12 student in the Okanagan

Anonymous donors identified as Kelowna entrepreneurs Lance and Tammy Torgerson

Rita Coolidge played the main stage at Vancouver Island Musicfest in 2017. (Black Press file photo)
This year’s Vancouver Island MusicFest to virtually showcase beauty of Comox Valley

Returning July 9 through 11 with more than 25 hours of music performances

British Columbia’s premier says he’s received a second dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. (Twitter/John Horgan)
B.C. premier gets 2nd dose of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine

John Horgan shared a photo of himself on social media Friday afternoon holding a completed vaccination card

A lotto Max ticket is shown in Toronto on Monday Feb. 26, 2018.THE CANADIAN PRESS
No winning ticket sold for Friday’s $70 million Lotto Max jackpot

The huge jackpot has remained unclaimed for several weeks now

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Most Read