According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 19.2 million adults struggle with seasonal allergies.
If you live in Southwest Florida, you’re likely no stranger to allergies.
It’s now the sixth leading cause of chronic illness in the U.S. If you struggle with seasonal allergies, your symptoms are likely much more acute this year and scientists say the environmental changes due to climate change may be to blame.
Busy college graduate student Kaitlin Baker loves to take study breaks but even a quick walk in the park used to cause complete misery.
“Just sneezing and sniffling and runny nose for about three hours,” she recalls.
No matter where she goes, she still does a quick pocket check. Does she have her tissues close by?
Baker says, “I do!”
Allergist and immunologist at the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center, Dr. Kara Wada, says she’s busier than ever.
“We’re seeing the effects of climate change in patients every day,” Dr. Wada emphasizes.
Scientists say the time between first thaw in the spring, when pollen emerges, and the fall freeze is much longer. That means plants have longer to give off more pollen.
Dr. Wada mentions, “We see a little bit of a one-two punch, so to speak.”
Dr. Wada says the environmental change affects long-time sufferers, and it’s leading to more people being diagnosed and seeking relief for the very first time.
“I like to take a three-way approach to the treatment of allergies,” Dr. Wada says.
First, avoidance; stay indoors if the pollen levels are high. If you do go outdoors, when you come back in, change your clothes and shower to remove pollen from your skin and hair.
Next, medication; take antihistamines a few weeks before the season starts to halt the body’s allergy response. Finally, immunotherapy – a series of allergy shots.
Baker had immunotherapy to retrain her immune system. Now, she can enjoy the outdoors again.
“It’s beautiful. I love looking at the blooms and the flowers,” Baker says.