Many people with seasonal allergies are currently struggling with a vicious cycle of coughing, sneezing, wheezing and itching.
If this sounds like you, you may be wondering what’s going on. Is this allergy season particularly severe, or do your symptoms just look worse because you were inside in the spring of 2020 and weren’t exposed to many allergens? Or is it all in your head?
According to allergists, it’s not just you. It is true that your allergies may feel worse this year. Here̵
Climate change and the pandemic play a huge role
“Year after year, we find that climate change is a major factor in worsening symptoms for the spring and fall pollen seasons,” said Kenneth Mendes, chief executive officer and president of the American Asthma and Allergy Foundation.
Rising rates and rising concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere make pollen seasons heavier and longer. Allergy season is now 10 days longer than in 1990, and trees, grass and weeds produce 21% more pollen. More pollen means more runny nose, watery eyes and itchy throat.
“Unfortunately, we are seeing an increase in pollen counts on an annual basis and this is due to global warming and the increase in CO2, which we know plays a role in higher pollen counts,” said Payel Gupta, allergist and immunologist and medical director allergy clinic at home Clean.
It is to blame for the recent (and earlier) warm weather we have seen this year – and in the last few years. The plants bloom in warm weather, after which the tree pollen, grass and weeds gather and fly in the air around us.
In the past, warm weather appeared only in April or something, slowing down the flowering of plants producing pollen. But it’s getting warmer earlier year after year. Some areas in the northeast saw 70-degree days as early as January this year On top of that, the first frost that we usually see every fall happens later in the year. Mendes said this keeps flowering pants like ragweed – a major source of allergies – alive and well.
Grass pollen is higher than usual this year in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic, notes Accuweather. The Midwest is also experiencing a bad season for tree pollen due to higher than normal blooms. Weed pollen also tends to be higher than what we usually see every year. (People are hardest hit in Scranton and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Richmond, Virginia; Wichita, Kansas; McAllen, Texas; Bridgeport, Hartford and New Haven, Connecticut; Springfield, Massachusetts; and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, according to the latest AAFA Allergy Report.)
“Higher pollen numbers mean more pollen exposure, which means more allergic symptoms for those who are allergic to pollen in the spring, grass in the summer and weeds in the fall,” Gupta said.
The allergy season was also brutal in 2020. But last spring, people mostly went home and wore masks when they went out. This year, people spend more time outside, sometimes without a mask. That could contribute to the perception of allergies as “worse than usual,” he said Stephanie Leeds, pediatric allergist and immunologist in Yale medicine and assistant at Yale Medical School.
There is another theory that can help explain why people may experience worse allergies after locking: Some experts believe this is the case. exposed to allergens as pollen over time can help you build tolerance. If you remove the exposure, the tolerance decreases. More research is needed to see if this can be the case.
How to relieve allergy symptoms
Leeds recommends wearing a hat and sunglasses to protect the pollen from the eyes and nose. A thick rinse can also work wonders after spending time outside.
“Wash your hands and face after being outdoors for a long time and consider changing your clothes,” she said.
If you are particularly sensitive, limit your time outdoors on days with poor air quality. Consider washing your eyes and nose with saline. You may also want to swap your contact lenses for glasses, as pollen can stick to the lenses and irritate the eye. Cleaning the lenses more often, and choosing daily disposable contacts can also help relieve itchy, watery eyes.
Pollen can enter your home, so keep your windows closed and your car doors closed. Vacuum frequently to get rid of allergens in your carpet. If you have AC, set it to non-recirculated air.
AAFA also recommends the use of HEPA Air Filter to purify the air in your house. And pets can be pollen magnets, so smearing them well is a good idea after a spring walk, ”Gupta said.
You may want to keep the mask on your face for a while longer. The masks we use to protect ourselves from the coronavirus also act as a pollen barrier. The better mask, the better the protection.
“N95 masks are ideal for this, but the standard masks that most people use to protect themselves from each other from COVID-19 also work,” Mendes said.
If your symptoms persist or worsen, call your doctor or allergist. There are many over-the-counter medications and sprays that can relieve your symptoms, as well as some severe treatments if needed. You can also do whatever you can to fight climate change – it looks like our allergies will only get worse.
“If we do not slow down the cycle of climate change, pollen production will only increase,” Mendes said.