As if the itchy eyes and runny nose associated with pollen weren't bad enough, allergy sufferers in New Jersey are said to be much worse off today compared to those who suffered just a couple decades ago.

Residents are dealing with pollen over a longer period of time, and developing sensitivity to several airborne allergens, according to experts.

Dr. Leonard Bielory, professor of medicine and ophthalmology at Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine, said thanks mostly to climate change over the past 20 to 30 years, pollen seasons in the Garden State have grown on average by a couple days on the front and back ends.

"Some years it's less, and some it's more — and that more, of a week, really does make an impact to individuals," Bielory told Townsquare Media.

Allergies are the sixth leading cause of chronic illness in the United States, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.

With increased exposure, increased sensitivity has developed as well, Bielory noted.

Bielory, with offices in Springfield and Wall, said he's seen a 10 to 20 percent increase in patient activity over the years.

More people are developing symptoms, he said, and in many cases displaying sensitivity to four to six aeroallergens, as opposed to one or two.

"I see people that we call polysensitized," he said. "And the few that they had before — they've doubled."

On a typical schedule in New Jersey, trees pollinate from March through mid-May. Grasses pollinate from early May through mid-June (New Jersey is one of the few spots with a second pollinating season for grass, in September). The season for weed allergies begins in June and runs through summer, when ragweed season takes over.

Bielory said air pollutants are known to make one's allergies much worse. With enough pollution present, not as much pollen is needed to aggravate a sufferer.

With help from a student, Bielory created the AccuPollen Allergy Tracker, a free mobile app that gives users true pollen counts and indicates which species are in the air.

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