Allergy sufferers can brace themselves for more sneezing, nasal congestion and watery eyes as warmer weather brings tree budding and pollen production — and the start to allergy season.

Juniper and poplar pollen levels are expected to rise from low-medium to medium-high throughout this week, according to

Tree pollen typically appears in early April and sticks around until the end of May, but 50-degree temperatures and sunshine this week could be to blame for a slight head start, said Minnesota Pollution Control Agency meteorologist Daniel Dix.

"When the warm season comes on and you start having your hot days … ozone can be on the increase," he said. "And so the combination of the two can be rough on people."

Tree pollen counts were low Tuesday, the second day of the Clinical Research Institute of Minnesota's pollen counting season.

Compared to last spring, when flowering began up to two weeks early, tree buds are growing with expected timing, said Stan Hokanson, a professor in the Department of Horticultural Science at the U. Red and silver maple trees were the first to bud.

If the weather stays warm, Park Nicollet allergist Dr. Brenda Guyer said she expects pollen counts and allergy symptoms to worsen quickly. But even if pollen levels rise, rain expected next week could bring them back down, Dix said. Dry, windy weather helps pollen float through the air.

More than 54 million people suffer from pollen allergies, according to Changing HVAC filters, washing clothes and showering when coming home for the day, and taking allergy medication as needed can help patients mitigate symptoms, Guyer said.

Jessie Bekker is a University of Minnesota student on assignment for the Star Tribune.