Brace yourself for a bad spring allergy season


It’s that time of year again when seasonal allergies take off. Sneezing, itchy watery eyes, runny nose, blocked-up sensation are just a few of the symptoms.

Seasonal allergies are typically caused by pollen and mould spores in the air. If you have an allergy, your body sees the pollen as a foreign substance and sets off the immune system to defend itself.

Allergies vary by season. This time of year, it is the trees that are causing the symptoms, such as alder, birch, oak, maple elm and poplar. In May, the grasses get allergic folks into trouble and July starts the ragweed season.

Pollen can be spread by the wind, more so when it is dry. Typically, the further north you go, the later the pollinating season starts. But in warmer places, the pollination can happen year-round.

There is a direct relationship between the weather and the allergy season. When the weather is wet and cool, allergies are not as bad. In those weather conditions, the pollen does not move around as much. But as the weather gets warmer and drier, you can be sure that the pollen counts go  up as they travel far more easily.

In some parts of the country, the allergy season has already started and the prediction is that this year will be among the worse we have seen in a while. That prediction is based on the fact that all the rain we have had has encouraged a lot of growth in our allergy-causing trees and grasses. As the weather gets warmer, the pollen counts are predicted to soar.

Our weather in most parts of Canada has been pretty cool — not such a great spring unless you are an allergy sufferer! The cool weather has meant the pollen counts have been lower — but warm weather is just around the corner and experts are warning that with that warmer weather — the allergy season will be a bad one.

If you suffer from  mould allergies, you are likely already in trouble. As the American Academy of Asthma Allergy and Immunology points out, moulds are tiny fungi related to mushrooms but without stems, roots or leaves. Their spores float in the air like pollen. Outdoor mould spores begin to increase as temperatures rise in the spring and reach their peak in July in warmer areas and October in the colder areas. They can be found year-round in the U.S. South and on the West Coast. Moulds can be found almost anywhere, including soil, plants and rotting wood.

The other problem is that with the change in weather, it seems that our allergy season is actually getting longer. Studies have found that ragweed now has a longer flowering season that extends further north than it did years ago. Saskatoon’s season, for example, is now 27 days longer than it was 15 years ago. That’s about a full month more of sneezing, wheezing and watery eyes.

It is helpful to know what the pollen count is in your area. It can help to arm you with information that will tell you if this is an indoor air condition kind of day! I have an app on my Blackberry that I downloaded (for free) sponsored by the makers of a popular antihistamine that allows me to plug in any city and find out what the pollen count is. The iPad has similar kinds of downloads for free sponsored by other manufacturers of antihistamines. One of my favorites is sponsored by the Weather Network.

Treatments range from over-the-counter antihistamines to prescription nasal and eye drops. In some cases, allergy shots or immunotherapy can be used. For individuals with asthma and allergies, a variety of inhalers and oral medications are available to maximize control.

Suggestions from the AAAAI (American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology) for control include:

  • Keep your windows closed at night
  • Use air conditioning, which cleans, cools and dries the air.
  • Stay indoors when the pollen or mould levels are reported to be high
  • Don’t mow lawns or rake leaves because it stirs up pollen and moulds


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