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Why allergy season is harsher for some this year

Updated: May. 26, 2021 at 5:09 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - As more people are getting outside, lots are feeling the return of seasonal allergies. News 10 spoke with experts to find out the reasons allergies seem worse, and one is the pandemic.

Dr. Lawrence Hennessey is an allergist-immunologist at the Okemos Allergy Center.

“Last year at this time of the year people were quarantining, they were wearing masks, they weren’t going out as much,” Hennessey said. “And so relative to last year, you would anticipate people would have more symptoms this year, just from being outside more.”

With COVID-19 restrictions lifted, allergy season has felt a lot worse for some who spent quarantine indoors, but there’s more science to it than that.

Dr. Nathan Moore, a Geography Professor at MSU, said, “One of the big changes that we’ve seen in the last 20 years or so is were having between five and ten days extra of pollen season.”

Climate change has become a big driver in making the allergy season worse with increasing CO2 levels. Dr. Moore says there are two effects to keep in mind.

“First, is that the season is getting longer, so earlier springs,” Moore said. “And at warmer temperatures as we’ve seen this spring, you also get higher levels of production from pollen there.”

But going back to April, when the pollination process was supposed to begin, there were record frosts.

Moore said, “So a lot of the trees that otherwise may have pollinated earlier in the season waited until things warmed up, and then it appears we had this large burst of pollen the last few weeks.”

That larger than normal influx of pollen has even caused some people in mid-Michigan to get allergies who haven’t ever had them before.

It’s important that you don’t confuse allergy symptoms with COVID-19 symptoms, as both are prevalent issues in the community.

“COVID usually doesn’t cause sneezing, and it typically also doesn’t cause profuse watery nasal drainage the way that allergy does,” Hennessey said. “So, if your nose is itchy, if you’re having lots and lots of clear nasal drainage, sneezing, if your eyes are itchy, if you don’t have a fever, if you don’t have a significant cough that feels like it’s coming from your chest, it’s less likely to be COVID and more likely to be allergies.”

Dr. Hennessey told News 10 that fatigue is the one common symptom between COVID-19 and allergies. If you do have questions about how you’re feeling, its best to go get COVID-19 tested.

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