Allergies seem worse this spring? It’s not your imagination

TORONTO – Experts say seasonal airborne allergies could be worse in parts of Canada this year due to an earlier start to the pollen season.

Dr. Anne Ellis, an allergist and professor at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., Told that she has heard more patients than normal report worsening allergy symptoms. She says this is expected given an increase in pollen in the air.

“I actually get the pollen counts … and I can absolutely say that the pollen counts are much higher this year than they were this time around last year,” Ellis said during a telephone interview on Tuesday.

Compared to previous years, Ellis said parts of Canada experienced an earlier start to the tree pollen season starting in April rather than May.

With the tree pollen appearing earlier, Ellis said it begins to circulate as soon as the warmer spring weather sets in, making the allergy season longer and unbearable.

“As much as the weather is nice and pleasant to enjoy, the sun and the nice warm breeze, unfortunately this just poses the problem for allergy sufferers,” Ellis said.

Additionally, Ellis said the grass pollen season has not changed and “seems to start about on time every year” around May 15.

And that means people allergic to both are badly affected.

“People who suffer from both tree and grass pollen are getting this double whammy,” Ellis said. “It’s a difficult time.”

Canadians have more allergies to pollen than any other allergen, according to Statistics Canada. In 2017, 27% of Canadians reported having allergies, and of this population, 40% were allergic to pollens or herbs.

Dr. Susan Waserman, allergist, clinical immunologist and professor of medicine at McMaster University, says some cities in Canada are worse for pollen than others.

“It depends on where you live … places like Montreal and Ottawa have had a lot more pollen and this is due to the temperature and humidity around these local conditions which determine how much pollen you get. there is in an area, ”Waserman said in a telephone interview. with Wednesday.

She added that changes in the pollen season are likely linked to climate change.

“Some studies have shown us that if temperatures get warmer, plants pollinate more and they appear in places where they would not have appeared before if the weather was not right, and the pollination season can be longer because of the weather. of that, ”Waserman explained.

Waserman said COVID-19 could also make Canadians aware of their allergies after spending months indoors.


According to Health Canada, the allergy symptoms are: sneezing, coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, flushing of the face, rash similar to eczema and red eyes, itchy and swollen.

Allergy symptoms can be mild for some and quite severe for others, Waserman says.

“For people who are allergic to ragweed, ragweed, you’re talking about almost six months of your life,” Waserman said.

Unless properly treated, she said people with allergies could suffer from lingering symptoms that can lead to difficulty sleeping and concentrating. She says it can impact a person’s performance at school or at work.

Additionally, Waserman said persistent allergy symptoms can create complications such as worsening asthma.

While these symptoms are not detrimental to health, Ellis says the impact on quality of life “can be astronomical.”

“For people who suffer from hay fever and allergic rhinitis, they’ll tell you they’re just unhappy this time of year if they don’t get help and relief,” Ellis said.

For those with allergies, Ellis recommends taking over-the-counter, non-sedating antihistamines such as Reactin, Claritin, and Allegra at the onset of allergy season or at the first sign of symptoms.

If these don’t work, she suggests talking to her doctor about a prescription antihistamine or corticosteroid nasal sprays.

If over-the-counter or prescription drugs still don’t help, Ellis and Waserman recommend making an appointment with an allergist.

Waserman says an allergist is able to identify exactly what a person is allergic to and provide immunotherapy treatment to help prevent the onset of symptoms.

Waserman said immunotherapy helps alter the body’s immune response so that a person no longer reacts to an allergen and the immune system learns to tolerate it.

“We now have tablets and injections that are very effective in desensitizing people, so these aren’t just reactive treatments,” Waserman said. “By seeing and allergist and starting some of these therapies, they are able to keep you from having symptoms.”

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