Dr. Derek Johnson, medical director of the Fairfax Allergy, Asthma and Sinus Clinic in Virginia, said tree pollen counts on Feb. 23 in the Washington area were more than 100 times their level a year earlier, The Washington Post reported Monday. There were 365 grains of pollen per cubic meter in 2012, up from just 2.88 in 2011.
"It really is unusually early for patients to be this miserable," Johnson told the Post. "The mild winter has resulted in very high pollen levels in February and early March, when they're typically very low or negligible."
Dr. Jackie Eghrari-Sabet, an allergist in Gaithersburg, Md., predicted "a slow, grand parade" of misery for the susceptible because some species of tree are pollinating early and others are on their usual schedule.
To complicate things further, doctors warn the flu season is not over, so people who develop respiratory symptoms or body aches and pains should not just assume it is early hay fever, WLS-TV in Chicago said.
Dr. Andrew Bonwit of Loyola University Medical Center suggested anyone with symptoms that could be influenza should consider visiting the doctor.