Many people with seasonal allergies are currently struggling, trapped in a vicious cycle of coughing, sneezing, wheezing and itching.
If this sounds like you, you might be wondering what’s going on. Is this allergy season particularly brutal or are your symptoms just looking worse because you were indoors and weren’t exposed to many allergens in Spring 2020? Or is it all in your head?
According to allergists, it’s not just you. It is true that your allergies could get worse this year. Here’s the deal – and how to find relief:
Climate change and the pandemic play a major 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 Mendez, CEO and President of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.
Rising temperatures and increasing concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere make the pollen seasons heavier and longer. The allergy season is now 10 days longer than it was 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 the number of pollen every year, and this is due to global warming and an increase in CO2, which we know plays a role in the increase in the number of pollen,” said Payel. Gupta, allergist and immunologist. home allergy clinic medical director Erased.
The recent (and past) warm weather we are seeing this year – and in recent years – is to blame. Plants bloom in hot weather, then pollen from trees, grass and weeds collects and flies into the air around us.
In the past, warm weather did not appear until around April, delaying flowering of pollen-producing plants. But It’s hotter earlier year after year. Some areas of the northeast have seen 70 degree days from January of this year. On top of that, the first frost that we typically see every fall occurs later in the year. Mendez said it keeps flowery pants like ragweed – a major source of allergies – alive.
Grass pollen is higher than usual this year in the northeast and central Atlantic, Accuweather notes. The Midwest is also having a poor tree pollen season thanks to higher than normal blooms. Weed pollen also tends to be higher than what we usually see each year. (People are hit hardest in Scranton and Pittsburgh, PA; Richmond, Virginia; Wichita, Kansas; McAllen, Texas; Bridgeport, Hartford and New Haven, Connecticut; Springfield, Massachusetts; and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, according to the latest AFOA allergy report.)
“A higher pollen count means more exposure to pollen, which means more allergic symptoms for those who are allergic to tree pollen in the spring, to grass in the summer, and to weeds in the fall,” Gupta said.
Allergy season has also been brutal in 2020. But last spring, people mostly hung out at home and wore masks when they went out. This year, people are spending more time outdoors, sometimes without a mask. This could “contribute to the perception that allergies are ‘worse than usual’,” said Stephanie Leeds, Yale Medicine pediatric allergist and immunologist, and assistant professor at the Yale School of Medicine.
There is another theory that might help explain why people may have worse allergies after lockdown: Some experts believe it is exposed to allergens like pollen over time can help you build tolerance. If you remove the exposure, the tolerance decreases. However, more research is needed to determine if this could be the case.
How to relieve your allergy symptoms
Leeds recommended wearing a brimmed hat and sunglasses to keep pollen out of your eyes and nose. A solid rinse can also work wonders after spending time outdoors.
“Wash your hands and face after being outdoors for long periods of time and consider changing your clothes,” she says.
If you are particularly sensitive, limit your time outdoors on days with poor air quality. Consider washing your eyes and nose with saline solution. You may also want exchange your contact lenses for glasses, as pollen can cling to the lenses and irritate the eyes. Clean your lenses more frequently and switching to daily disposable contact lenses can also help relieve itching and watery eyes.
Pollen can be trapped inside your home, so keep your windows closed and your car doors closed. Vacuum often to get rid of allergens trapped in your carpet. If you have alternating current, set it to non-recirculated air.
AAFA also recommends using a HEPA air filter to purify the air in your home. And pets can be pollen magnets, so giving them “a good rub is a good idea after a spring walk,” Gupta said.
You may also want to keep your face mask on for a bit longer. The masks we use to protect us from the coronavirus also act as a barrier against pollen. the better the mask, the better the protection.
“N95 masks are ideal for this, but the standard masks that most people use to protect each other from COVID-19 also work,” Mendez said.
If your symptoms persist or worsen, call your doctor or allergist. There are many over-the-counter allergy medications and sprays that can relieve your symptoms, as well as intensive treatments if needed. Other than that, you can do whatever you can to tackle climate change – it looks like our allergies will only get worse.
“If we don’t slow the cycle of climate change, pollen production will only intensify,” Mendez said.