The discomfort caused by pollen can be felt by many people, like watery eyes or a stuffy nose. More often than not, people first turn to the internet to find out what their symptoms mean and to identify some possible options for relief.
As shown in this Google Trends result, searches for the term “seasonal allergies” in Canada tend to spike around the same dates as the pollen concentrations in the air do: around the third week of April.
Plant flowering depends on many environmental factors, such as humidity or minimum temperature, so it’s hard to pinpoint a national start date for the pollen seasons. It’s more likely that different places will experience pollen seasons that match their particular range of temperatures, flora and other aspects of their geography.
Climate change is already altering flowering seasons worldwide and in turn, creating longer pollen seasons. The dates that were traditionally considered the start and end of pollen seasons have become obsolete because the seasons are generally starting earlier and ending later.
Ragweed is highly allergenic, and produces pollen beginning in August and into the autumn. Photo: Shutterstock
In addition to the environmental differences, we must consider individual differences too. Not everyone is affected by pollen in the same degree; for some people, the pollen season might go unnoticed if not for the change in scenery. However, for people whose immune systems have been sensitized to the allergenic proteins in pollen, the increased amounts of pollen in the air triggers very specific symptoms.
Because there is no known single cause for the development of allergies, it’s impossible to suggest a solution to protect oneself. However, for people who already suffer from allergies, some actions are known to be effective in decreasing the discomfort caused by their symptoms:
If you have been diagnosed with allergies (or asthma), or even if you have not been diagnosed but have felt symptoms in the past, schedule a consultation with your primary care provider before pollen season starts. In this appointment you can discuss potential actions to prevent your symptoms and, maybe even plan to use over-the-counter or prescription medications.
Use air conditioners or a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter in your house, or in the rooms where you spend most of your oftime. These filters have proven to be useful for pollen as well as for the smoke caused during the wildfire season, which in some Canadian cities runs parallel to the last leg of the pollen season.
Taking a proactive stance and learning about your allergies and how pollen might affect you is a first step in controlling your symptoms, allowing you a more enjoyable spring, summer and fall outdoors.