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Olga Boiko
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Spring has sprung and for some of us that brings tears to our eyes!

If you’re amongst the 20% who suffer from seasonal allergies, especially allergic rhinitis (commonly known as hay fever), the warmer season arrives with mixed feelings. And lots of tissues.

“Allergies are a real killjoy. At the height of the season I have puffy, itching eyes, a non-stop running nose and look like hell – and feel like it too. I even have trouble concentrating,” says Jason Pong. He got allergic rhinitis two decades ago at age 28. First he gets hit by tree pollen in the spring, then grass pollen in the summer and even ragweed in the fall. “If it’s warm and windy out, I’m doomed!”

So what’s in store for Pong? The predictions for allergy season are in, according to experts at Aerobiology Research Laboratories. Things are about to get sneezy in the Prairie provinces, earlier than usual, while it’s already peak allergy season in B.C., a little later than usual, with lots of cedar and alder pollen wreaking sneezing havoc on the West Coast. And for Ontario, Quebec and the Atlantic provinces, it looks like a typical allergy season kick off, and that generally means April.

According to Dawn Jurgens, director of operations at Aerobiology Research, which specializes in pollen and spore identification and research in Canada, there’s a variance of up to a month in start times for pollen across Canada every year. “Weather has a major impact on when pollen seasons starts and the intensity of the pollen levels.”

The length of winter has the biggest impact on allergy season, says Jurgens. When the weather is cold and wintery through until March or April, the pollen season is delayed. “If spring arrives as normal and then winter weather returns the pollen season will be interrupted.”

Last year, the average allergy season length across Canada was 115 days, with Victoria, Vancouver, Burnaby, Hamilton, and Brampton experiencing the longest seasons, she adds.

Once bit, twice shy? Not so. It appears 40% of Canadians aren’t taking allergy medications early enough – they know annoying symptoms are coming, but they don’t prepare. And the new study from London Drug also reveals that 65% of Canadians mistake seasonal allergy symptoms for a cold.

“Some medications can take a few weeks to become fully effective, so ideally, allergy sufferers should start taking their medication two weeks prior to the start of allergy season,” says London Drugs pharmacist Lily Liang.

Pollen counts can predict bad allergy days so stay updated on pollen levels at theweathernetwork.com and pollenexperts.ca. There’s even an app for daily personalized pollen forecasts – Allergy Sufferers by Aerobiology is available in the app stores for Android and IOS devices.

With the variances in pollen starts and intensity, knowing what’s coming and what’s in the air let’s allergy sufferers prepare with allergy medication, planning outdoor activities, avoiding allergy triggers, for a much improved quality of life, adds Jurgens.

Cold or allergies?

“Although allergies and the common cold share many symptoms, patients experiencing seasonal allergies generally suffer from itchy watery eyes and a runny nose. Symptoms of a cold may include aches and pains, a sore throat, and perhaps a fever and chills, which are not typical of seasonal allergies,” says Liang.

A cold will generally only last about a week or two, whereas seasonal allergies will have much longer-lasting symptoms, she adds.

Allergy confusion

Actually there’s lots of allergy confusion out there. Here are some myths debunked with the help of Dr. David Fischer, former president of the Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, and Connecticut allergist Dr. Louis Mendelson, former head of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology Foundation.

  • If you didn’t have allergies as a kid, you won’t get them as adults. False. Most people develop pollen allergies as an adult, says Mendelson.
  • Honey cures hay fever. Not true, says Fischer. Oral tolerance to pollen is now being used to treat allergy patients via sublingual immunotherapy. However, honey bees do not collect the pollens that are necessary to improve symptoms. It tastes great though and can soothe a sore throat.
  • Mold allergies only strike outdoors. Nope. Mold spores can cause problems indoors. This is especially true in damp dark areas of the house, says Mendelson.
  • Short-haired pets won’t trigger allergies. False. A non-allergic animal is one with no skin, no saliva and does not urinate. In other words, a skeleton, says Mendelson.
  • Natural treatments are better than pharmaceutical ones. Not true. There is no peer reviewed scientific data to support this.
  • If you have allergies, you should move to the desert. False. There are a lot of plants in the desert that pollinate and cause allergies.
  • Pollen decreases after a rainfall. True! It is only a temporary reprieve, however. Wet weather will encourage pollen production later on, says Fischer.
  • Most people suffer from allergies only in the spring. False. Allergies can happen in any season and will happen at various times of year, says Fischer.
  • The only treatment for allergies is to avoid triggers. False. With proper management most people that have allergies can live a normal life and not live in a bubble, says Mendelson.

By Joanne Richard
https://torontosun.com/health/diet-fitness/0331-lifenaitonal

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