Yes, This Is a Particularly Horrendous Year for Seasonal Allergies

Illustration by Angelica Alzona.

This allergy season is dreadful, isn’t it? I have sneezed myself silly in the last couple of weeks and, anecdotally at least, here in New York half the people I know are clawing out their eyes and drowning themselves with neti pots. But is it worse than usual this year, or am I just a big baby? I spoke to Sujan Patel, an assistant professor of allergy and immunology at New York University, for his thoughts on whether this season is as awful as it seems. And to find out what to do about it.

Confirmed: It’s terrible.

“They are pretty bad this year,” said Patel. “One of the reasons allergy seasons progressively get worse is because of global warming, as well as the accumulation of greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, which makes the plants more fertile. And because they’re more fertile, they’re releasing more pollen earlier in the season. A mild winter, combined with the precipitation … and then we’ve had abnormally warm temperature bursts throughout the spring season, which get the plants up and going.” He pauses. “All those play a role in making patients miserable.”

So what can we do to feel better? Patel lays out his typical lines of defense for the allergy sufferer.

1. Find out what you’re actually allergic to.

“The first thing that’s useful to know is what you’re allergic to. Dust mites or cockroaches can potentiate [worsen] spring allergies,” he says. If you’re miserable, talk to an allergist.

2. Close your windows.

I know, it’s spring, it’s lovely, you want the breezes. But shut the windows, especially at night. “It’s actually at dawn when the trees start to drop their pollen, and that enters your home. So I advise using the air conditioner or the fan because those have a filtering unit that keeps the pollen from coming in,” says Patel.

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