Pollen allergy season will be early this year, and it may be potentially worse than ever, and according to a new study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published yesterday, that may be because of global warming. "It is clear that global warming is the major culprit in the lengthening of pollen seasons, and it seems to be playing a more moderate role in exacerbating annual pollen levels," said study lead author William Anderegg, an assistant professor of biology at the University of Utah, in Salt Lake City. "A pollen allergy is an allergic reaction that typically consists of nose and eye symptoms that occur when a person is exposed to tiny grains (pollens) that are released for fertilization by plants and trees," Ujwala Kaza, M.D., a specialist at ENT and Allergy Associates, tells us. "Typical pollen allergy symptoms can include" the following. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus.
You May Feel Nasal Congestion
If you feel "stuffy in your nose or that your nose feels blocked," you may have a pollen allergy, says Dr. Kaza. "Pollen exposure can trigger various allergic reactions, including symptoms of hay fever," adds the CDC. "Hay fever, also known as allergic rhinitis, occurs when allergens like pollen enter your body and your immune system mistakenly identifies them as a threat."
You May Have a Runny Nose
Do you feel like "your nose is constantly drippy and feels like a faucet?" asks Dr. Kaza. This may also be due to allergic rhinitis, says the CDC. "If you have allergic rhinitis, your body then responds to the allergen by releasing chemicals that can cause symptoms in the nose."
You May Sneeze
This is "where you get that itchy feeling in your nose and you set off a series of these," says Dr. Kaza. You may also have difficulty breathing. "People with respiratory illnesses like asthma may be more sensitive to pollen. Exposure to pollen has been linked to asthma attacks and increases in hospital admissions for respiratory illness," says the CDC.
You May Have Itchy Eyes
You might be "constantly rubbing your eyes," says Dr. Kaza. "Pollen exposure can result in 'allergic conjunctivitis' in some individuals, causing red, watery, or itchy eyes," says the CDC.
You May Itch Elsewhere, Too
"Itchy ears, itchy throat, itchy palate (roof of your mouth)—having those areas you really wish you could scratch" could be the result of a pollen allergy, says Dr. Kaza.
You May Have Other Symptoms
"You can have other symptoms, coughing, postnasal drainage (dripping at the back of your nose into your throat) though the most common symptoms are the ones we see above," says Dr. Kaza. "When you have all of these symptoms together and they occur at certain times of the year (spring, early and late summer, fall), this often indicates a pollen allergy." And, she adds: "You can have any of these symptoms with other types of allergies as well—pets, dust. So they are not just specific to pollen."
What to Do If You Experience These Symptoms
"Sneezing, runny nose, stuffy nose are not specific to allergies," says Dr. Kaza. "These symptoms often occur with other conditions such as the common cold. However, when we see these symptoms at certain times of the year and we see them in connection with itchy eyes, itchy nose, itchy palate, or itchy throat, then that often means a pollen allergy." As for how to help yourself? See a specialist like Dr. Kaza and "check pollen forecasts on local news and online sources and plan to spend less time outdoors when pollen levels will be high," says the CDC, and "take your allergy and/or asthma medications as prescribed by your health care provider." And to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.