Got Allergies for the First Time? Here’s Who to Blame and What to Do About It

pollutionYour entire childhood you were allergy free — rolling in the grass and running through parks without so much as a sniffle. Suddenly, as an adult, you find it difficult to walk outside during spring or fall without sneezing, enduring unrelenting sinus pain, or just plain feeling miserable. What gives?

Pollution and climate change — which of course are closely related — are almost certainly to blame. Despite new air quality regulations and advances, the truth is that factories, cars and trucks — especially ones with diesel engines — pump a lot of particulates into the air. Constant exposure to those particles exacerbates allergy and asthma tendencies in young and old alike. Even rural areas with a lot of agricultural activity (that have historically bred allergy-free children) have problems, as particulates from manure and dairy waste, among other sources, can go airborne and affect lungs and sinuses.

In the American Lung Association’s list of Most Polluted Cities/short term particle pollution, farming communities in California — Fresno, Bakersfield and Modesto — top the list, though metropolitan areas such as Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, Pittsburgh and others are not far behind. Unfortunately, pollution is a fact of our modern lives that we simply can’t avoid.

Global climate change is another problem. With rising temperatures, trees and plants release pollen over a longer season. For this reason, allergy specialists have proclaimed each year “the worst pollen year on record.” And each year IS worse than the one before, with billions of pollen grains filling the air.

Taken together, the particulates from pollution and pollen play havoc on your immune system, which is trying to protect you from this huge invasion. It releases histamine into your bloodstream and, with it, allergy symptoms. Even robust adult immune systems often can’t hold out forever.

So what can you do about it? There’s only one allergy treatment that teaches your immune system that the particles are not enemies: immunotherapy. Available in drops and shots, it helps your body adjust to our dirty environment — and it works for many years. In contrast, medications simply cover up symptoms temporarily. Since pollution and global warming are long-term problems, you should probably consider this long-term solution.

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