As long as Jenna can remember, every spring and fall in Ohio brought a familiar rite of passage, red, watery, puffy eyes that were hard to keep open at times, and bouts of near-constant “a-choos” that literally brought her to a standstill because, well, you can’t walk and see where you’re going when your eyes are half closed and you’re sneezing your fool head off. Between tree pollens in the spring, and ragweed in the summer and fall, not to mention the occasional exposure to pet dander, Jenna was a poster child for allergic rhinitis and all its misery. But then she went away to college and started taking jobs in other parts of the country, and to her surprise, she left her childhood allergies behind.
We know a lot about what causes allergies. Immune systems react to the foreign substance (pollen, dust, dander) that lands in our eyes, nose and throat, and our bodies send out immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies (“defenders”) that release histamine, triggering those tell-tale symptoms.
But allergies are also a bit of a mystery, like why they disappear during certain times of our lives, or suddenly emerge later in life. There are a few theories, though.
Experts with the non-profit Allergy & Asthma Network theorize that allergies may disappear over time simply because a person has grown accustomed to a particular allergen, or developed a tolerance, and their immune system no longer recognizes it as an invader.
On the other hand, allergies may also get worse with age or have a later onset, because it may take repeated exposure over time to trigger reactions. It could be as simple as the immune system taking longer to decide it doesn’t like a particular allergen or that more exposure is needed to cause a reaction.
Climate change experts point out that warmer temperatures and higher levels of CO2 cause plants to go into overdrive and become “super pollinators.” It is not uncommon for 60-degree days in January to kick off the spring allergy season, regardless of what the calendar shows. Therefore, pollen seasons are becoming longer and more potent.
Extreme temperature swings may also cause sinus inflammation, and while not technically an allergy, can mimic some allergy symptoms.
Every spring and fall when the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America puts out its Allergy Capitals list, the pollen count is a major indicator of what cities rank highest on the list, along with allergy medication usage, and the number of board-certified allergists in the area. Jackson, Mississippi, has held the honor of being the Most Allergic City for the last few years. However, pollution can also be an aggravating factor. Big, polluted cities can actually produce more allergens than leafy suburbs. Smog and exhaust fumes can trigger allergies, plus windier conditions prevalent in big cities and near busy roads and highways move microscopic pollen articles through the air en masse; as opposed to the insect pollinators that are busy moving larger pollen particles in more rural areas.
Stress causes so many issues and can even be tied to allergic reactions. Stress is known to cause inflammation and release histamine which means sneezing and wheezing aren’t far behind. So as your stress levels wax and wane, so too, may your allergies — which is a stressor in and of itself. Taking stress-reducing measures, like getting plenty of sleep, exercising, and being regular with your allergy medications, are all good ways to battle the effects of stress during allergy season.
From person-to-person, age-to-age, season-to-season and city-to-city, your allergies can be in an ever-fluctuating cycle. American Family Care, the nation’s leading provider of urgent care, accessible primary care and occupational medicine, can help you find answers and relief for your allergy symptoms, from over-the-counter solutions to allergy shots. We are open seven days a week and offer extended hours, making us your number one convenient stop for healthcare!