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May 31, 2020

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Weekend doctor: The rise of spring allergies: Fact or fiction?

Each spring isn’t necessarily worse than the last

By Maria Slack, MD, MMSc
This spring allergy season could be the worst yet, or at least that is what you might hear or be feeling. Every year is particularly bad for allergy sufferers, but are spring allergies this year really worse?

While it’s true that allergies are on the rise and affecting more Americans than ever, each spring isn’t necessarily worse than the last. The prevalence of allergies is surging upward, with as many as 30 percent of adults and up to 40 percent of children having at least one allergy.

There are many events that can help predict how bothersome the spring allergy season will be and why allergies are increasing:

• Climate Change – Recent studies have shown pollen levels gradually increase every year.  The warmer temperatures and mild winters cause plants to begin producing and releasing pollen earlier. Rain can promote plant and pollen growth, while wind accompanying rainfall can stir pollen and mold into the air, heightening symptoms.

• Priming Effect – A mild winter can trigger an early release of pollen from trees. Once allergy sufferers are exposed to this early pollen, their immune system is primed to react to the allergens, meaning there will be little relief even if temperatures cool down and this will lead to a longer sneezing season for sufferers.

• Hygiene Hypothesis – This theory suggests that exposure to bacterial by-products from farm animals, and even dogs, in the first few months of life reduces or delays the onset of allergies and asthma. This may, in part, explain the increasing incidence of allergies worldwide in developed countries.

While over-the-counter medications may work for those with mild symptoms, they can cause a variety of unwanted side effects. If you think you have allergies, see a board-certified allergist.

During this time of social distancing, an allergist can provide you with quality care through HIPPA secure Telehealth/virtual visits. They can evaluate, diagnose, and treat allergy sufferers so the spring sneezing season doesn’t have to be so bothersome.

If you think you might be one of the more than 50 million Americans that suffer from allergies and asthma, don’t delay your care, find an allergist in your area who can provide Telehealth/virtual services.