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Can forecasts of the start of the spring season improve allergy and asthma symptom management?
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  • Theresa Crimmins,
  • Elizabeth Vogt,
  • Arie Manangan,
  • Fiona Lo,
  • Daniel Katz,
  • Dan Dalan,
  • Claudia Brown,
  • Guy Robinson
Theresa Crimmins
USA National Phenology Network

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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Elizabeth Vogt
University of Arizona
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Arie Manangan
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
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Fiona Lo
Dept. of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences
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Daniel Katz
University of Texas at Austin
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Dan Dalan
MercyOne Health Care
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Claudia Brown
Center for Disease Control
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Guy Robinson
Fordham University
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Allergic respiratory disease affects millions of Americans, resulting in billions in medical expenses and lost productivity annually. Information regarding when pollen concentrations are increasing across the country is limited, diminishing the ability of health care professionals and individuals suffering from allergies and asthma to anticipate and manage their symptoms. The USA National Phenology Network, a science and monitoring network that collects, stores, and shares data and information products regarding the timing of seasonal events from across the country, offers a series of map and short-term forecast products that indicate the start of biological activity in the spring, based mainly on temperature conditions. In this study, we evaluate the potential for the Spring Indices to indicate the timing of the start and peak of airborne pollen concentrations by plant taxa, and by extension, their utility for predicting timing of increases in airborne allergenic pollen concentrations. We compared daily pollen counts collected at National Allergy Bureau (NAB) pollen counting stations across the country to the day of year the two Spring Indices – the Leaf Index and the Bloom Index – were met at those locations. In general, the Bloom Index exhibited stronger relationships with the timing of peaks in airborne pollen among the 36 plant taxa evaluated. This is likely because the Bloom Index occurs later in the season, closer to the timing of pollen peaks. However, relationships for the Leaf Index also demonstrate coherence (adj R2; ~ 0.5 +/- 0.15 [SD]). Relationships were generally strongest for Morus (mulberry), Populus (poplar), Fraxinus (ash), and Salix (willow), though the taxa best predicted by the Spring Indices varied by site. Strength of relationships did not vary appreciably across geography. Overall, the Spring Indices provide insight into seasonal pollen dynamics and have the potential to enhance springtime allergy management.