Allergy sufferers on the West Coast are already hacking and sneezing through one of the worst — and earliest — hay fever seasons in years.

"This year, in particular, is worse than I think I've every experienced," said Jenn van Evra, who suffers from severe allergies, particularly to pollen. She noticed the onset of intense symptoms in mid-January.

Dr. Ross Chang, an allergy specialist, said van Evra is not alone. The pollen count is five times the level it was at this time last year, he said, and last year's levels were already considered high.

The number of people suffering from allergies and asthma is also on the increase, Chang said.

"We think perhaps it's part of climate change — perhaps more pollution in the air, more additives in our food, perhaps more chemical exposure."

Van Evra has noticed the problem as well, especially now that she's living closer to traffic and exhaust fumes.

"I find it exponentially worse, so I have to, at this time of year, keep my windows and doors closed and have my air purifiers in my bedroom and living room going full blast all the time," she said.

There is a bit of good news for those who take weekly allergy injections to help desensitize the immune system, Chang said: Health Canada is expected to soon approve an oral form of the medication.