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updated: 5/8/2014 12:28 PM

Back to the 80s. But are warm temps here to stay?

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  • It could finally be time for shorts. At least that's what Damian Cortes of Wheeling thought as he headed to class at Harper College in Palatine.

       It could finally be time for shorts. At least that's what Damian Cortes of Wheeling thought as he headed to class at Harper College in Palatine.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • Bridget Barry of Barrington relaxes outdoors at Harper College in Palatine.

       Bridget Barry of Barrington relaxes outdoors at Harper College in Palatine.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • Kyle Scott and Amanda Elfar enjoy the warm weather while strolling from classes at Harper College in Palatine.

       Kyle Scott and Amanda Elfar enjoy the warm weather while strolling from classes at Harper College in Palatine.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

 
 

A 35-degree wind chill Tuesday morning. A mid-80s forecast today.

A 50-degree swing isn't that unusual for spring in Chicago, but the warm weather doesn't necessarily mean we've broken out of our cool pattern yet -- with some fallout for spring planting, seasonal allergies and maybe even general health and well-being, experts say.

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"I've lived here for 15 years, and I don't remember having heat on in my house in May," said Dr. Sanjeev Gupta, an internal medicine physician in Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital's Crystal Lake office.

Meanwhile, gardeners focused on the traditional Mother's Day planting schedule are wondering if they should wait a bit longer, especially for tender plants like impatiens and tomatoes.

Gupta said he's seeing more patients this spring suffering asthma attacks, joint pain and allergy symptoms.

While Gupta doesn't think all of the cases are tied to extreme temperature fluctuations, he said changing weather puts stress on the body that can weaken the immune system, making some people more susceptible to viruses and infections.

"We are people who like to have things more predictable and a more controlled environment," Gupta said.

Since you can't control the weather, Gupta recommends boosting your own immune system with regular exercise, eight hours of sleep each night a balanced diet.

Allergies also are in full swing, said Alexian Brothers allergist and asthma specialist Dr. Greg Sharon, based in Bloomingdale. A 50-degree temperature swing, especially one mixed with high concentrations of pollen or mold, can make it difficult for warm, moist, clean air to get to the lungs.

"Heaviness of air can make a difference," he said. "We feel pressure changes, just like grandma's knees. Patients with not really good drainage or not really good open sinuses, they're having a hard time."

Though today might be warm, some gardeners remain suspicious that it's a lasting thaw.

The average temperature in April was 48.5 degrees, about half a degree below average.

That's partly due to Lake Michigan, which largely froze over this winter and still has water temperatures in the low 30s, generating plenty of chilly onshore breezes, said National Weather Service Chicago meteorologist Kevin Birk.

In fact, the gardeners' tradition of getting plants in the ground around Mother's Day might be a gamble this year, said John Heaton, owner of Knupper Nursery & Landscape in Palatine.

Tomato plans and impatiens, in particular, might not survive a cold spell. If you do plant and the weather becomes unexpectedly cold, Heaton recommends putting a sheet over garden beds. Clear plastic is not a good choice, because it makes the ground colder, Heaton said.

Rose plants are suffering this spring for reasons Heaton doesn't understand. Normally, snow cover like we had this year protects the plants.

"The temperature swing that really hurts plants is in February or March. If it gets very warm for three or four days, and then freezes, it can kill the buds and kills stems," he said. "Plants can get too optimistic."

So can customers, who sometimes ask Heaton if he thinks it's too early to plant. He doesn't have a good answer.

"I just say to them, 'How much of a gambler are you?'" he said.

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