Allergies worse than normal? Edmonton’s unpredictable weather is to blame, experts say

Edmonton seemed to skip spring this year — but the huge increase in temperatures in a short time made pollen counts worse, allergy experts say.

Lilly Byrtus, regional co-ordinator for the Allergy/Asthma Information Association, said Edmonton’s pollen levels in May were three times the normal level this year.

The high levels came from sudden increases in temperature and a lack of rain.

“When it’s dry, the trees want to make sure they can reproduce a lot,” Byrtus told CBC’s Radio Active Wednesday.

Levels were still bad until Wednesday when it rained. The rain knocks a lot of the pollen out of the air, which is why you’ll often see a yellow powdery substance in puddles after a downpour.

Those levels of pollen affect many people, leaving them with stuffy noses and watery eyes.

Dr. Raj Bhardwaj, a family physician in Calgary, said up to 20 per cent of Canadians have seasonal allergies.

“It’s bad because we went from winter forever to all of a sudden summer,” Bhardwaj said. “That pollen is everywhere in the wind.”

Tips for prevention

Bhardwaj said when pollen gets into your mucus membranes, whether it’s up your nose or on the surface of your eyeballs, it can cause the immune system to react to the pollen as a threat.

The body produces histamine as a result, which can make your eyes itchy.

Dr. Raj Bhardwaj is a columnist on CBC Radio and a family physician. (Dr. Raj Bhardwaj/Twitter)

A simple solution might be to take antihistamines, but Bhardwaj said they can have side effects and suggests other methods to try first.

First, he suggests figuring out when the allergies are at their worst. If it’s in the spring, then it’s likely trees. If it’s late summer, it’s likely grass and ragweed.

Are you sniffling and sneezing now that spring is here? Dr. Raj Bhardwaj has helpful advice that might let you enjoy the weather without suffering. 7:09

He also suggests watching the weather. If it’s rainy, it’ll be much easier to go outside than if it’s windy. Keep the windows closed and hire someone else to rake or mow your lawn.

Bhardwaj said frequent nasal rinses might also help. Rinsing, using a neti pot, can clear your nose of allergens before they enter your system in the first place.

“It’s when the allergen gets into your nasal passages that your immune system sees it and reacts to it,” Bhardwaj said.

“There’s good options other than pills.”

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