Please Explain: Why I'm Sneezing So Much

The Weather Channel's four-day pollen forecast for New York notes that grass pollen is high, tree pollen is moderate. For the many who people suffer from seasonal allergies, spring brings sneezing and sniffling. So on this week's Please Explain, Dr. Clifford Bassett, Medical Director of Allergy and Asthma Care of New York, tells us why and what we can do to find relief:

  • Climate change has led to worse allergies because the pollen seasons have been starting earlier in the spring and lasting about four weeks longer in the fall.
  • Allergies and asthma have been increasing around the world.
  • Male plants produce more pollen, and in NYC there are more male trees than female trees in recent years, so allergies here have been getting worse.
  • Ragweed produces about 1 billion pollen spores.   
  • If you have dark circles under your eyes, it may be due to a sinus problem caused by allergies. Dr. Bassett referred to “allergic shiners” — puffiness and purple circles around the eyes.
  • Allergies interfere with sleep, because if you can’t breathe well, you can’t sleep well.
  • Allergies can make people miserable. They can make it hard to sleep, hard to concentrate, hard to exercise, but they are treatable and something we can control. “Poorly controlled allergies have a negative impact on your love life,” said Dr. Bassett. “And that’s no joke.”
  • Diagnosing allergies often involves a skin prick test, where a very small amount of an allergen is pricked into the skin. If the skin becomes red, itchy and swollen, it indicates an allergy. Blood tests can also diagnose allergies.
  • Immunotherapy drops or injections make you more tolerant to an allergen over time. This treatment is designed to decrease and stop allergies.
  • Some people swear by eating local honey every day as a way to decrease seasonal allergies. Like immunotherapy, it's thought to expose people to small amounts of pollen in the area. It's not a proven treatment, though.
  • Rinsing the sinuses with a neti pot can also help some people, but, Dr. Bassett said, if home remedies and over-the-counter medication isn't providing relief, see an allergist.