Itchy, watery eyes. A runny nose. Pounding headaches. These and other frustrating ailments that come along with seasonal allergies are at an all-time high this year. If your sinuses haven’t alerted you, then maybe the internet has. Nearly every day since April, you can find a plethora of memes and gags about how allergies this year are wreaking havoc on people’s day-to-days, fighting for their lives, even, now more than ever.
There’s a reason it seems like allergies are terrorizing us at a much higher rate than in previous years: it’s because they are. But why? Well, we can thank our old pal climate change.
“Climate change and global warming have caused longer allergy seasons, and the increase in carbon dioxide levels from rising greenhouse gases causes more potent pollinating or super pollinator plants since plants feed off of CO2,” Dr. Purvi Parikh, an allergist and immunologist with Allergy & Asthma Network, tells InsideHook.
As explained by Vox, higher concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are causing the planet to heat up. There are warmer winters and earlier springs, which gives plants the opportunity to start pollen production sooner, which then leads to more pollen. Plus, as the concentration of carbon dioxide increases, it causes plants to grow bigger. Bigger plants produce larger amounts of pollen and spread more seeds, which, as Vox notes, produces more “pollen-spewing plants in the next season.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has also impacted our heightened allergy risk. “For the most part, we were home last year, or masked, which protected us. This year, more are foregoing masks outdoors and indoors due to vaccinations and dropping infections, but as a result are losing their protection against the pollen and other allergens,” says Parikh.
And despite the fact that allergies are largely associated with the blooming of spring, but summer isn’t without its risks. “In summer there are grass pollens left over from spring plus weed pollens,” she adds. “Also the humidity and heat cause more mold and dust mite exposure indoors and outdoors.”
The good news is that there are solutions to your allergy woes, even for people looking for all-natural remedies.
“The most natural allergy treatment is allergen immunotherapy where a board-certified allergist uses the allergen itself to train your immune system to be less allergic or be desensitized,” explains Parikh, who adds, however, this won’t work in time for this allergy season.
But if you have no problem popping a few over-the-counter allergy pills, Parikh recommends using long-acting antihistamines.
“Allegra, Zyrtec, Claritin. Flonase or Nasacort nose spray. Zaditor or Alaway eye drops,” she says. “Stay away from Afrin or pseudoephedrine decongestants they can make allergies worse long term and have side effects. So plain Zyrtec is better than Zyrtec D.”
Parikh also stresses that asthma attacks are also on the rise this time of year since allergens are a leading cause of asthma attacks. “Do not self-treat or take cough, wheeze or shortness of breath lightly,” she says. “These are all signs of asthma and asthma attacks kill ten Americans daily!”
So next time you decide to chow down on a piece of meat (or even cheese) with a single-use plastic utensil and water bottle, maybe think twice. If not for the continuation of our species on this planet, then for your poor little inflamed sinuses.