In recent years, the telltale symptoms of seasonal allergies—itchy, watery eyes; sneezy, runny nose; and cough and wheezing—start earlier, last longer and may be more severe.
Allergy experts at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center attribute these changes to the warming climate and increased carbon dioxide levels in urban areas leading to longer pollen seasons and higher pollen counts.
“Allergy seasons have been changing in North America and across the globe, and we see greater changes the further you get from the equator,” said Dr. Kara Wada, allergist immunologist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and clinical assistant professor of allergy and immunology at The Ohio State University College of Medicine. “In the U.S., the time between our thaw and our freeze is much longer so plants have longer to reproduce and produce more pollen.”
Not only do these environmental changes impact long-time allergy sufferers, but it has also led to a growing number of people being diagnosed with seasonal allergies for the first time. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 19.2 million adults were diagnosed with seasonal allergies in 2018, the most recent data available. Seasonal allergies are the 6th leading cause of chronic illness in the U.S. and affect up to 60 million people.
With the increase in irritants in the air, Wada recommends allergy testing to determine which allergens are causing the symptoms. Once allergy testing is complete, she advises her patients take a three-prong approach to treatment:
“There are incredibly helpful, really effective treatments that an allergist immunologist can help you figure out the perfect combination to help treat your symptoms and get you feeling better,” Wada said. “If allergies go untreated, not only are your symptoms going to worsen with stuffy nose, sneezing, but that also can sometimes progress into sinus infections, and recurrent sinus infections can sometimes require surgery.”
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