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Why Are Allergies So Bad in 2021?

It's Not Just Your Imagination — Allergies Are Worse in 2021

A young woman running in the forest footpath.

It seems like this year's allergy season is never-ending in our house, stretching out for months. If you're also in the same boat, it isn't just your imagination. POPSUGAR talked to two allergy experts and confirmed that not only are pollen counts higher this year, but they will also continue to rise.

According to Kara Wada, MD, an allergist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, pollen amounts and types are counted all over the world and compared to previous years. The results show that this year's pollen count is higher than last year's. A recent study found that pollen counts have risen over the past few decades, with the trend not reversing anytime soon. "Pollen counts each year continue to rise at least due to the longer length of the pollen seasons as a direct result of climate change," Dr. Wada explained.

Tania Mucci-Elliott, MD, an allergist at NYU Langone Health in New York City, agreed that the current climate emergency is making allergies worse. "Warmer temperatures and above-average rainfall mean earlier tree budding and more pollen," Dr. Mucci-Elliott told POPSUGAR. In addition to data analysis from pollen-counting stations, doctors understand that allergies are worse than ever before, because anecdotally speaking, "more patients are coming in with allergy symptoms," Dr. Mucci-Elliott explained.

According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), rising temperatures lead to poorer air quality and can aggravate allergies. The rain doesn't help, either. The AAFA notes that pollen levels can quickly rise after a heavy rain because water drops that hit the ground cause pollen to break up into even smaller particles, allowing it to disperse far quicker than before.

Not only is the 2021 allergy season worse, but it's also lasting longer in certain parts of the country. "Spring came early this year, and we are anticipating that summer will last longer," Dr. Mucci-Elliott said.

How Can I Get Relief From My Allergy Symptoms?

While all of this is a major bummer, the good news is that most cases of seasonal allergies can be treated effectively. Dr. Wada recommends that allergy sufferers consider opting for nasal sprays instead of antihistamine tablets, because the former tend to be more effective. However, Dr. Wada explained that it "may take several weeks to see their full effect." If these medications aren't enough, or if you're looking for a long-term solution, immunotherapy could also be an option. Immunotherapy works by helping your body build immunity to what you're allergic to. This is done by gradually introducing a small amount of an allergen via injections, tablets, or drops.

In addition to medical treatment, Dr. Mucci-Elliott recommends wearing a mask to provide relief by minimizing your exposure to pollen. "Pollen particles are small and stay suspended in the air, therefore ideally you'd wear a mask that is good at filtering airborne particles," she explained. "A surgical mask is fine. You don't need something as airtight as an N95."

However, if your allergies are "interfering with your quality of life, including your ability to participate in outdoor activities, sleep, or function at work," Dr. Wada recommends that you see a doctor. Dr. Mucci-Elliott agreed, urging allergy sufferers to keep a close eye on their symptoms. "Worsening symptoms, breathing issues, fever, cough, or swollen lymph nodes suggest an infection and not actual allergies," Dr. Mucci-Elliott said. If you find yourself falling into any of these categories, a doctor will be your best bet to come up with a comprehensive approach to treatment.

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