No, it’s not your imagination. This fall’s allergy season has been a miserable one. Across the nation, allergists and physicians are seeing more people in their offices, many of whom have never suffered from fall allergies before. With more people across all ages suffering, many people are asking, why?
Fall allergy season revolves around two main types of allergens – ragweed pollen and mold spores. While cedar/juniper pollen and other fall pollinators contribute, the bulk of late season allergy sufferers are effected by ragweed and mold.
Of these two, ragweed is the fall King of Allergens. Each plant can produce billions of pollen granules which are light enough to easily be carried by a stiff breeze. This year, the drought gripping the majority of the US has exacerbated ragweed pollen counts. Drier than normal conditions have allowed for pollen to spread far and wide.
Throughout the west, wildfires continue to dump tons of smoke and ash into the air. Those with pre-existing heart or lung conditions, as well as allergy and asthma sufferers, can be particularly vulnerable to these types of pollutants. And while the physical damage that these fires can cause is relatively local, the smoke and pollution from miles of burning forest can reach across several states.
The drought is the ultimate culprit for this year’s poorer than average air quality. Dry air and a severe lack of rain has allowed for an expanded reach of ragweed pollen while simultaneously creating a tinderbox of forests. Long term weather patterns aren’t providing much hope. Drier and warmer than normal conditions are expected to persist for several more weeks, and for most, relief won’t come until the first frost of the year.
Until then, keep an eye on your local air quality index and try to limit outdoor activity during the worst days/times of day. For persistent conditions like coughing, sneezing, watery eyes, congestion and sinus pressure that simply won’t go away, visit your local allergist or immunologist to determine if you might be a new allergy sufferer or dealing with something like bronchitis or sinusitis.