Why your allergies are bugging you

Pollen levels are increasing, pollen seasons are getting longer, and more people are developing allergies.

Story highlights

  • Spring allergies now start sooner and fall allergies end later, thanks to global warming
  • More carbon dioxide kick-starts pollen production
  • Number of Americans with allergies two to five times higher now than 30 years ago
Every year, sneeze sufferers swear: "This is the worst allergy season ever." And they're right.
"Pollen levels are increasing, pollen seasons are getting longer, and more people are developing allergies," says Estelle Levetin, Ph.D., chairwoman of the aerobiology committee for the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.
In fact, this year's fall allergies (affecting at least 12 million Americans) will most likely last up to 27 days longer than average in the northernmost parts of North America, going even into November in some spots, a new study suggests.
While spring and fall allergies cause the same symptoms (sneezing, itchy eyes, and runny nose), their triggers are different.
Spring allergies, which run from February to late July, are brought on by pollen from trees, grasses, and weeds. Fall allergies go from mid-August through the first autumn frost, and are chiefly set off by pollen from the ragweed plant, mold, and dust mites.
Read on to learn what's making both seasons so unbearable—and the best ways to survive them.
The seasons are longer
Spring allergies now start sooner and fall allergies end later, thanks to global warming, says Jeffrey G. Demain, M.D., director of the Allergy, Asthma & Immunology Center of Alaska.
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