If you’ve noticed itchier eyes and runnier noses this spring, you’re not alone.
According to data from London Drugs and Aerobiology Research Laboratories, for certain allergens the season has increased by more than 60 per cent.
“It definitely started a bit earlier than most years,” says Rey Marx, pharmacy manager at the London Drugs, Sannich Centre. “Usually people come in asking for allergy medication in April or so. This year they came in starting in February.”
Grasses, trees, and flower pollen — the most common allergens for hay fever — have steadily been increasing.
Between 2006 and 2017, the length of the cattail pollen season increased a total of 33 days, and grass pollen increased by 16 days. Sudden increases also contribute to this year’s high allergen season – between 2017 and 2018 alone, the oak pollen season increased in length by 61 per cent, from 18 days to 29 days.
Researchers say the lengthened pollen season this year was caused by rising average temperatures. The Aerobiology Research Lab collects daily pollen samples at sites across Canada, and looks at top pollens present in the air to assess the average pollen season length.
“Allergy sufferers in Victoria are seeing longer seasons, but unlike other areas of Canada, the increases are occurring with fewer pollen types,” explains Dawn Jurgens, director of operations at Aerobiology Research Laboratories.
Despite the longer season, Marx says there are ways to manage your allergies, and to plan for an earlier start.
“I’m a seasonal allergy sufferer myself,” he says. “And I always tell people to keep track of when they’re having symptoms. They can reduce the severity of their symptoms next year by taking preventative actions early.”
While these actions might include taking antihistamines earlier, Marx says there are some non-pharmacological options people can take that might help, including staying indoors on dry, windy days and taking a shower after having been exposed to pollen.
He also reminds people to wash their clothes after they’ve come inside if they have severe hay fever, and to remember not to hang their laundry outside.
Other pharmaceutical options also include nasal sprays, sinus sprays, eye drops and decongestants. While Marx says most over-the-counter drugs are perfectly safe, it is always wise to check in with your pharmacist if you have any other health issues.
“Decongestants are stimulants, so in some situations with complicated medical history, it’s best to come to the pharmacy and know there’s no interactions,” he says.