Spring allergies

sneezeThere is a school of thought that the toughest seasonal adjustment for our bodies is from winter into spring. Although the return of warmer air, sunnier skies and the sounds of birds and peepers are mentally uplifting, our bodies have a rough time making the change than for any of the other seasonal transitions.

And for the 35 to 60 million of us (depending on the source) who have spring allergies, it’s even harder. Like having a bad cold, we have some unpleasant combination of itchy, watery eyes and nose, stuffed nose, sneezing or dark circles under the eyes. It can even affect our skin and digestive system, as the earth comes back to life and our immune systems fight off the invisible swirling spring tree pollen.

Once upon a time I thought allergies were pretty psychosomatic and felt little sympathy for its sufferers, but then I joined their ranks. One day in my mid-twenties I went for a spring stroll on a tree-lined boulevard and found myself suddenly afflicted by a host of ailments that felt much like a winter cold. Now every year I cry and sniffle my way through spring, feeling the fatigue of “spring fever,” really hay fever, which has no association with hay or fever either.

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Climate change, a.k.a. global warming, is causing the allergy season to get worse with every succeeding spring, and increased carbon dioxide levels in our atmosphere mean more pollen. Our harsh, lingering winter of 2012-13, with its heavy snow, rains and cold, delayed gradual tree budding, so it is happening all at once. This long-awaited warming is suddenly stimulating pollen release, contributing to a bad time for spring allergy sufferers.

“It’s one of the worst seasons we have seen for tree pollens,” say allergists at the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

Usually I grin and bear it, and just pop an OTC allergy med when it gets to be too much. But apparently, I’ve learned, there are better ways to deal with it.

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