Despite some snow on the ground this week, spring has officially sprung in Michigan. For some, it’s not the calendar that clued them in, but instead, their itchy eyes and runny noses. Whether you're experiencing allergy symptoms for the first time or you feel like your normal allergies are coming back with a vengeance, you may be wondering just what’s going on this year.
“Right now what we're seeing is that environmental allergens are increasing, especially in the Midwest and the state of Texas, randomly. That seems to be our path. But we've reached record levels that we've never reached before,” said Dr. Kathleen Dass, an allergist, immunologist, and medical director with the Michigan Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology Center in Oak Park.
But why are seasonal issues rearing their heads so hard this year? According to Dass, it may have to do with increasing temperatures and carbon dioxide. Warmer weather can extend the start and end dates of pollination cycles for certain plants.
“There has been a noted increase in humidity and increase in carbon dioxide that seems to be affecting the way different plants are pollinating,” said Dass. “So that really does seem to be leading to an increase in symptoms.”
Dass continued to explain that the pandemic has exacerbated some allergen symptoms. Because people are staying indoors for longer periods of time, it’s creating a recipe for disaster.
“So normally we get a break; we’ll travel from one building to another or we'll take a walk. But because we've been indoors for such a significant amount of time, we've had a lot more dust mite exposure than we're normally used to,” said Dass. “If you have a pet allergy and you have that pet, you're not having respite and decreasing that exposure, say, by going to work.”
You may be employing the typical tools to mitigate symptoms, like allergy medications. But Dass says there are non-medicated ways to decrease your exposure to allergens. Avoiding the outdoors during peak allergen hours, showering before going to bed, vacuuming your carpet, and getting dust mite covers can help mediate some symptoms. Ultimately, Dass encourages people experiencing severe allergies to reach out to an allergist for a customized plan.
“The goal is really to try to streamline based on what you're allergic to, which an allergist can help you identify and then streamline that treatment,” said Dass. “And as you improve, you can take things off. And it really is a good day when you wake up and your nose isn't congested or you don't have headaches or you're not trying to scratch your skin off.”
This post was written by Stateside production assistant Catherine Nouhan