Sneeze much? No, it’s not just you. Across the country, record pollen counts have made this allergy season particularly trying for those who suffer from them. Dr. Marjorie Slankard, a New York City-based allergist affiliated with Columbia-New York Presbyterian, weighs in on why this season is particularly bad and what you can do to mitigate the effects of pollen before reaching for medication.
Why has this allergy season been brutal?
“We had so much moisture, between the snow and then these early spring rains that we had, it caused more of the flora to flurry,” says Dr. Slankard. “We’ve had more tree pollen early on — in some instances as early as February, and then grass pollen started unusually early. Similarly, you have mold spores that are in the air. Because of the increased dampness, mold is likely to become more of an issue.”
The effect of global warming
“Scientists have seen that the elevation in carbon dioxide levels actually cause the pollen to flourish more, so you have more pollen growing,” says Dr. Slankard. “The increased carbon dioxide and ozone levels have been more conducive to pollen and people having more allergy symptoms.”
An estimated 50 million Americans suffer from all types of allergies (one in five Americans) including indoor/outdoor, food and drug, latex, insect, skin and eye, according to the Asthma and Allergy Association of America. Allergy prevalence overall has been increasing since the early 1980s across all age, sex and racial groups.
Approximately 40 million Americans have indoor/outdoor allergies as their primary allergy.
For adults, allergies is the fifth-leading chronic disease and a major cause of work absenteeism and “presenteeism,” resulting in nearly 4 million missed or lost workdays each year.