If I had a nickel for every sneeze in my lifetime, I could probably buy Philly.com with the change. Many of you likely feel the same way. Allergies can be overwhelming for some people for some parts of the year. And some years are worse than others. This is one of them.
The Current Misery
We show the pollen forecast every day on NBC10, and it hasn't been a pretty sight. Readings close to 10 indicate a high pollen count. We've been in the "high" range nearly every day for weeks. The lack of rain has made a bad situation worse, since all that pollen just blows around in the air, or stays on our cars and everything else. When you can see the pollen, you know it's bad.
The pollen season started late because the cold and snow lasted longer into spring than usual. So, once the trees and grass and plants started pollinating, they all did it at the same time. And, at the same time, we've had nearly three straight weeks with practically no rain. Plus, there aren't any prospects for rain until the weekend.
The Future: How About Some More Bad News?
We hear about how the climate might change in the future. Could that have an effect on future allergies? Is anyone looking into that? As a matter of fact, there are people looking into this (and everything else, it seems).
The amount of carbon dioxide has increased steadily and dramatically for decades. There's no debate about that. Here's the iconic graph that shows it:
So, does increased carbon dioxide affect allergies? It should, since it affects plant growth. They grow better with increased CO2. Scientists put plants in a growth chamber, and changed the amount of CO2 to see what happened to the pollen. In this case they used ragweed. They took the projection of the CO2 increase as of 2060, and look what they found:
It doesn't take a PhD to understand this graph: if the amount of CO2 increases at its current rate, the pollen level by 2060 will be about TWICE what it was in 2000.
One big word I learned even before the word "meteorology" was "antihistamine". They've been a part of my life since childhood in Mount Airy, sneezing walking to school, sneezing while playing ball at the playground down the street, and trying to sleep while in the midst of a sinus headache. My nemesis: tree and grass pollen. This is not to get sympathy, but to let you sufferers know that I feel your pain.
If there are "antihistamines", then there must be "histamines". Histamines are the enemy-chemicals that cause the sneezing, runny noses, itching, and postnasal drip. What did people do before antihistamines were discovered? And who discovered them anyway? I looked it up. Thank you, Daniele Bovet. He won the Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine in 1957. The Swiss chemist, who died in 1992 at the age of 85, never even applied for a patent for his work!
My allergist is Dr. George Martin from Lankenau Hospital. He's their Chief of Allergy and Immunology, which means he gives allergy shots. Lots of allergy shots. He tried to talk me into getting shots when I first visited him in the 1990s. I finally gave in about five years ago when my girlfriend at the time insisted on it to put to an end to my constant throat clearing. It turned out to be worth it, since a trip to Dr. Martin for an allergy shot ended up with him sending me to the ER for an irregular heartbeat that was a mere 99% blockage of my main artery, known as "The Widow maker." So, you might say that having severe allergies saved my life!
In this current period, I'm going to have to spend even more time indoors, or they better come up with some better antihistamines by then…..