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It's not your imagination, seasonal allergies are getting worse

Experts warn climate change is making your allergies worse
Posted at 3:55 PM, May 15, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-15 17:56:24-04

(WXYZ) — In today’s Health Alert, seasonal allergies are worsening for millions of Americans, leaving them reaching for tissues and antihistamines sooner than expected.

A seasonal allergy—also called allergic rhinitis—means that you have symptoms during specific times of the year, such as spring, summer, or fall.

Part of the reason allergies are getting worse is warmer winters. With fewer days below freezing, plants bloom earlier and thrive longer.

Now, seasonal allergies happen when your immune system reacts to airborne substances like pollen, mold spores, or grass. We all know that our immune system is important because it protects us from germs and viruses. But sometimes it gets confused and sees pollen as harmful, and fights back releasing chemicals. And that's what leads to those annoying symptoms like sneezing, runny nose, itchy eyes, tickly throat, and congestion.

As for what situations make allergies worse, these include high levels of pollen, windy days that spread pollen around, and being near freshly cut grass or moldy areas. And what improves the situation is rain as it helps by clearing pollen out of the air. Of course, it's also best to stay indoors during peak pollen times.

Pollen level counts are generally reliable. However, they can vary due to factors like where the monitoring stations are located, the methods used for measurement, and the weather conditions in your area. So it's not a bad idea to check different sources, such as a local weather app and online pollen trackers like IQAir or pollen.com.

As for prevention, here’s my advice:

  • Check pollen levels before making outdoor plans and avoid peak times. The morning tends to have the highest count because pollen is released during cooler temperatures.
  • Limit outdoor activities, particularly on windy days. Shower and change clothes after being outside to remove any pollen.
  • Keep windows closed to prevent pollen from entering your car or home. Using air purifiers indoors can help remove not only pollen from the air but also mold spores, bacteria, viruses, and smoke.
  • If you have pets, be sure to wipe down their paws or bathe them to reduce pollen on their fur.

Also, please don’t suffer. There are over-the-counter and prescription allergy medications available to help ease symptoms. You could also try desensitizing your immune system with allergy shots or under-the-tongue tablets or drops. These are not a cure, but they can help reduce allergic reactions in some folks. It’s best to speak with a healthcare professional to find the right treatment for you.