Allergies Are on the Rise!
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True or false? It’s one of the worst allergy seasons in recent memory. I am afraid the answer is true! A series of events over the past several decades are all adding up to what I refer to as the “perfect storm” for those with allergies.
Government and other botanists and pollen researchers are finding a series of environmental changes leading to an onslaught of more pesky pollens (tree, weed, and grasses) almost everywhere. So what are these climate changes we hear so much about, and how do they affect those with allergies?
First, with increasing global temperatures the average pollen season in many locations is actually getting longer, thus exposing us to increasing amounts of seasonal pollens. Second, an increase in global warming greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, a direct boosting effect on plants that produce allergenic pollens, can in some cases push up pollen production by as much as threefold. The pollens produced may also be “more powerful” in causing allergy misery.
Unfortunately, one cannot escape seasonal allergens. Over the past decade, many individuals and families that migrated to the southwestern United States in search of states and towns with fewer allergic triggers have not been successful — allergenic plants have just moved in along with them. You might just need to take a vacation during pollen season — try someplace near a body of water (think beach or lake) where pollen levels are typically lower.
The record breaking levels of precipitation and flooding in the northern states this past winter have also led to the worsening of seasonal allergies. The reason: Allergenic plants and of course trees love water and moisture and have been more than adequately “watered” and primed to produce lots of pollens. In addition, the sudden warm temperatures in this part of the country have helped to bring in the pollen surge over the past several weeks.
Another theory is that we’re just too clean! The “eat dirt” or “hygiene hypothesis” argues that over-sanitizing the world may have an indirect effect on the increased prevalence of asthma and allergic diseases. So it may be that germs are actually important in giving us a stronger and more robust immune system.
Finally, diet plays a role in any condition where the immune system is concerned. Stay tuned for an anti-allergy diet designed to help you fight allergies and even shed some pounds.
Do your allergies seem more intense? Write in and let me know if you think this allergy season is worse than usual.
Dr. Clifford W. Bassett is an assistant clinical professor of medicine at the Long Island College Hospital and on the faculty of NYU School of Medicine. He is the chair for public education committee of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology and a fellow of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. No information in this blog is intended as medical advice to any reader or intended to diagnose or treat any medical condition. For more allergy and asthma tips you can visit his website: www.nyc-allergist.com.
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