Rainy spring helps temper some people’s allergy symptoms: doctor

There’s been a lot of grumbling over the grey, cold spring in Metro Vancouver, but an expert says the weather has actually helped people who suffer from allergies.

Dr. Joanne Yeung, a Vancouver-based pediatric allergist, says the rain washes away what’s in the air.

“If there’s a silver lining in our grey, rainy spring it’s that it’s improved allergies for a lot of people and so it’s just physically removing the pollen from the air. The hot summer we had last year actually increased airborne allergens quite a bit because nothing actually washed it out of the air, so despite all our complaints about Vancouver weather, it is one perk that it seems to be holding the pollen counts at bay and having them lower than they are seasonally,” she said.

She says the pollen in the air is microscopic but enough for the rain to wash away.

“A light rainfall may not clear it very much, but a heavy rainfall or a longer duration of rain will physically remove it from the air, but of course, plants are really active right now and so the grass will replenish it overnight if we have a dry spell.”

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Yeung says we had a dramatic start to the season in March and April with high counts of tree pollen season and now we’re entering grass pollen season. She suggests many could feel worse if they’re around freshly cut grass or working in the garden.

“With all the green around us, allergies are just part of the package. I would, personally, encourage someone to be outdoors, get their fresh air and enjoy it and then acknowledge you have allergies and manage your symptoms as effectively as possible so you can strike that balance.”

She suggests wearing a mask while you’re outdoors if you are still experiencing symptoms.

Yeung stresses, overall, there are multiple ways people can stave off symptoms, including getting a shot or some prescription medication, but suggests speaking with a doctor to figure out what’s best.

“The simplest way of managing your symptoms during allergy season would be to just take a non-sedating 24-hour antihistamine on a daily basis. A lot of people like saving it for when they’re not really suffering but at that point, it might help a bit, it’s a bit too late for that spell. It is much more effective to have the antihistamine in your system before the allergy exposure. So, taking one every morning for the peak of the pollen season may be a very effective way to get you through season.”

She says the tiny, white, fluffy balls floating in the air is Cottonwood, and it is not linked to stuffy noses, itchy eyes or throats.

“The Cottonwood is what we see but it’s actually to heavy to go our nostrils, so that’s not what’s causing your allergies right now. Visually, you think you’re allergic to it but that actually plays a very little role in people’s allergies as we’re actually near the tail-end of the tree pollen season.”

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