Please Explain: Why I'm Sneezing So Much

Friday, May 30, 2014

Allergies often cause sneezing. Allergies often cause sneezing. (Copyright: petrunjela/Shutterstock)

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.


Clifford Bassett

Comments [27]

Sredni Vashtar from the Shed Out Back

The guest is incorrect regarding the etymology of "atopy," which comes from Greek, not Latin.

May. 31 2014 08:40 AM
Alvin from Metuchen, NJ

@Bev from Bloomfield NJ

If you've been gluten free for 2 months and you haven't seen any changes try eating a Clean diet to eliminate all known allergy offenders. This is how my wife and I narrowed down the allergy triggers. Good luck.

May. 30 2014 02:07 PM
Oliver Williams from New york

Your guest mentioned diet as a contributary factor to allergies. Could he speak of his understanding of research from MIT implicating glyphospate found in Roundup in allergy symptoms.

Thank you.

May. 30 2014 01:57 PM

my 4 and a half year old son gets a persistent nighttime cough every summer and his peditatrician has put him on albuterol and steroids,even though we are pretty sure it's seasonal allergies. is this a bad idea? would you recommend he go to an allergist or is this treatment exacyly what an allergist would prescribe?

May. 30 2014 01:55 PM
Bev from Bloomfield NJ

If I have been on a gluten-free diet for two months, and it's not helping, and I still have itchy bumpy rash and swollen eye symptoms, should I end the gluten-free diet?

May. 30 2014 01:53 PM
Kristian Scholte from New Jersey

Can you tell us more about mucus. Can mucus be an allregic reaction from dairy or other foods?

May. 30 2014 01:52 PM
heynow from NYC

Why so many kids are allergic to peanuts recently?

May. 30 2014 01:51 PM

This segment is coming across as an informercial for allergy specialists, complete with a fast-talking huckster -- little specific information, mostly "come in for testing and evaluation" (expensive for you; lucrative for the doctor). Also, since LICH is now closed except for the ER, how is the guest still an assistant professor there?

May. 30 2014 01:50 PM
Alvin from Metuchen, NJ

@ Tom from UWS

Totally agree about using the Neti pot. Works wonders when I need it.

May. 30 2014 01:49 PM
David Warshauer

Does the guest have any experience with using a neti pot to relieve symptoms?

May. 30 2014 01:49 PM
Renée from Walla Walla

This guest is such a salesperson.

May. 30 2014 01:48 PM

Re: Immune response...a while ago it was believed that those with allergies had a higher resistance to cancer; is that true?

May. 30 2014 01:46 PM
Joe from nearby

The link you posted ( doesn't work.


May. 30 2014 01:45 PM
Koren from Minneapolis

Your guest hasn't mentioned anything about what's going on in people's guts as a primary cause of allergies. Remember the segment you did on hook worm? This is probably the root cause of all allergy.

May. 30 2014 01:43 PM
Tom from UWS

Sinus rinsing ( Neti pot or other) is the most effective way for me to treat the air borne allergies that affect me. Sometimes I add one or another anti-histamine, but if you want a drug free, effective treatment, rinse away the stuffiness, rinse away the pollen. Maintain sinus and passage health. (And, yes, there are some food that effect this as, well - an elimination diet helped me discover some villains - esp the ones that exacerbate the problem, even if they don't "cause" it.)

May. 30 2014 01:43 PM
Alvin Nazario from Metuchen, NJ

Cutting out gluten will help reduce or eliminate seasonal allergies. You can also strengthen your immune system by taking B12 tablets.

May. 30 2014 01:42 PM
Kathleen from Hoboken

Please ask the doctor to discuss hives and "twitchy" mast cells. My husband has been suffering from hives for over a decade. All experts say this condition could last a lifetime or end at any time. Any new ideas would be greatly appreciated.

May. 30 2014 01:41 PM
Gary from Port Washington, NY

People have suggested that in the winter, if you eat local honey, you minimize your allergic reaction because the honey is produced by pollen from the local trees and flowers and your body adapts. Is there any basis to this? Smithsonian Channel has a program called Aliens Inside Us where they say births that don't occur via the birth canal lead to allergy problems later in life because you don't get necessary bateria in your system - please comment on this theory.

May. 30 2014 01:39 PM
Koren from Minneapolis

Please note that both the prick test and blood test are historically HIGHLY unreliable.

May. 30 2014 01:37 PM

Correction: exercise induced anaphylaxis

May. 30 2014 01:36 PM
Leah from South Harlem

The guest spoonerized the URL.

I believe it should be

Hope this helps --

May. 30 2014 01:36 PM
Carolyn from Brooklyn

Several family members have recently become allergic to penicillin. Ages range from young children to 70 year old adults who have never been allergic to penicillin. Any relation to your discussion?

May. 30 2014 01:33 PM
Pat from nyc

I had indoor-outdoor cats and dogs as a child and had no reactions to them. Then I moved to the US and then my roommate got a cat. I had violent sneezing and an eye infection within days of the cat moving in. What happened? Noe I can't be around cats. (I moved out asap)

May. 30 2014 01:31 PM
Leah from South Harlem

What about deliberately "using" a parasite to ameliorate allergic symptoms, as per a Radiolab show some time back? (Hookworm alleviated all allergy symptoms in the case investigated on that episode.)

May. 30 2014 01:30 PM

My daughter has exercised induced anaphylaxis to certain foods/pollens. It has been very difficult getting any information on exercised induced allergies, as I am told it has just not been very studied. Does you guest have any advice for someone with exercised induced allergies?

May. 30 2014 01:28 PM
Penny from Downtown

Question for the expert: Can adult pollen allergies be finally and forever cured with shots? I went to one allergist for ten years and got shots that fixed my allergies about 75%. Insurance caused me to switch allergists three years ago; she upped my dosage and this spring I had no allergy at all. Now she says I'm cured and can stop maintenance. I'm scared to cut off. I had so much misery that I'm afraid it will come back. Once the symptoms completely stop can you stop maintenance without erosion of the cure?

May. 30 2014 01:28 PM

Years ago, I read about research into a shot to give to a cat whereby the cat would no longer produce the allergen affecting so many people. (i.e., the animal gets the med, not the human allergy sufferer) I was hoping it might pan out, but I never heard any more about this. Perhaps the guest, or someone else, might have some info on this. Thanks!

May. 30 2014 12:52 PM

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