Get Ready for the Worst Allergy Season We’ve Ever Had
If you’re suddenly sneezing your head off, you’re not alone. Here’s why, and what to do.
The 2020 allergy season will be “brutal,” AccuWeather meteorologists predict, and the misery is well underway across much of the country. Indeed, Clifford Bassett, MD, founder and medical director of Allergy and Asthma Care of New York, says we are in the midst of an “allergy explosion.” “I’m seeing more and more first-time sufferers of all ages,” he says. And according to Melanie Carver, vice president of Community Health at the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), which tracks such trends: “Each pollen season has been progressively worse than previous seasons.”
The main culprit behind the sneezing is pollen, which is essentially plant sperm — and nature is promiscuous. (You know this if you have ever seen your car turn yellow overnight.) One ragweed plant alone can produce a billion grains. Early in the spring, trees such as oak and birch shed the stuff. By late spring through fall, grasses and weeds take over as major sources, so there’s the potential for months of suffering. The wind can carry grains for miles, and they are small enough to get into your eyes, nose, and lungs. “Allergies happen when your immune system misidentifies pollen as a threatening invader and overreacts,” says Bassett, who is also the author of The New Allergy Solution. Mast cells, immune cells found in connective tissue in the skin, nose, lungs, and elsewhere, pump out histamine, which creates inflammation and causes your runny nose, itchy eyes, and sneezing. (Any sniffle can be alarming in these times, but there are ways to distinguish allergy symptoms from Covid-19 symptoms.)
What’s making allergies worse?
Why would you suddenly develop seasonal allergies when you have been peacefully cohabitating with the local flora for years? Many allergy sufferers have an underlying genetic predisposition to develop a variety of common allergic conditions, including allergic rhinitis and asthma, eczema, food, medication, and skin allergies, says Bassett, but they can develop at any age. Some triggers to adult-onset allergies include: Repeated or overwhelming exposure to an allergen, moving to a new location with…