Schreiber Science: Allergies

Adi Levin and Caroline Katz, Staff Writers

It is that time of the year again; time for tissues, eye drops, and weeks of misery.  If you suffer from seasonal allergies, then this season has likely been especially rough for you.  However, if you are a very lucky soul who has somehow dodged this common allergy, you’ve probably been annoyed with just how many sniffles and sneezes there have been throughout the school day.

The dreaded “pollen tsunami” is taking the northeastern United States by storm, which doesn’t bode well for many people with pollen allergies.  The source of this overwhelming amount of pollen goes back to the exorbitant amount of snow that inundated the Northeast.

Because of it, the roots of many allergenic plants were extra hydrated, enabling the plants to produce more pollen.

As temperatures increased after a long, dreary winter, pollen levels skyrocketed.  In addition, the long winter has pushed the standard tree pollen production time back.  Unfortunately, this coincides with the onset of grass-related allergies.

Elms and cedars started the season off, and allergy sufferers faced a double whammy as grass pollen contributed to the ever rising pollen levels throughout New York and outlying areas.

Based on recent climate studies, many scientists have reason to believe that climate change is only augmenting New York’s pollen count.  All over the world, carbon dioxide levels are on the rise, causing trees and grasses to release unusually high amounts of especially potent pollen.

It is estimated that by the year 2040, global warming and increased pollution will lead to more than twice the amount of pollen as there was in 2000.

In addition to climate change and harsh winters, another cause for this brutal allergy season is actually something done for the purpose of convenience.

Cities such as New York regulate the number of female trees planted alongside the streets to prevent having to clean up after the female trees, which produce hundreds of seeds.

However, planting predominantly male trees leads to a huge increase in pollen production, with few female trees to trap the excess pollen.

When it comes to lessening your symptoms, there is more you can do than just take an antihistamine.

Try changing out of your pollen-covered clothes and showering immediately after coming home to clean yourself of the pollen on your body and in your hair.

It may also help to wear a hat and sunglasses to shield your face, this will help with watery eyes and irritated noses. Other steps you can take to minimize the effects of pollen include installing an air purifier and sleeping with a cold compress over your eyes.  The pollen count is expected to decrease within the next few weeks, so our universal suffering, though on a small scale, should come to an end soon.