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May 21, 2022

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Pollen: It’s getting worse

Rain in the forecast will provide temporary relief, ‘enhance the growing season’ later

By , Columbian Science, Military & History Reporter
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This allergy season, some people are thinking that their noses are runnier, their eyes are weepier and their sneezes are, well, sneezier.

They’re right, said Dr. Rebecca Hoffman.

“It seems to get worse every year because — guess what — it does,” said Hoffman. “Every year, we are having more and more pollen in the air.”

She is a family medicine provider at Kaiser Permanente’s Salmon Creek Medical Office, where the topic has become a frequently-asked question.

“‘I don’t have allergies. Why am I allergic now?’ I hear this several times a day,” Hoffman said.

Another provider, Dr. Raj Srinivasan, said that he “got slammed with the allergy patient volume” over the past few days.

“Each year is incrementally worse,” Hoffman said. “It has a lot to do with weather patterns.

“Not everyone likes the concept of global warming,” she said. However, “We are warmer; when we have more heat in the environment, we have a longer growing season.

“In addition, we have more carbon dioxide in the air, which acts as a kind of fertilizer for plant life,” Hoffman said.

Rain helps, hurts

Clark County could get a reprieve over the next few days, with rain in the forecast, but we will pay for it later.

“It will get some stuff out of the air for now, and it will enhance the growing season, with more pollen down the road,” Hoffman said.

Pollen from trees, grasses and weeds are the offenders listed in the pollen count on The Columbian’s weather page.

“At this point, all three allergen types are present,” said Srinivasan, an allergist and immunologist at The Vancouver Clinic.

The Vancouver Clinic has the only pollen counter between Seattle and Eugene, Ore., by the way. It was up and running again this week after being out of commission for about a month.

People struggling with allergy symptoms can find relief in over-the-counter medications such as antihistamines, Hoffman said.

(Histamine is the body’s response to foreign invaders, causing runny noses and congestion.)

First-generation antihistamines can cause drowsiness, but newer ones can be used safely in the daytime, she said. Steroidal nasal sprays can reduce congestion and post-nasal drip.

Some people can develop particularly severe symptoms. Srinivasan recommended seeking care if you are experiencing a fever; if you are prone to sinusitis or asthma attacks; or if the condition is severely affecting quality of life, especially sleep.

Columbian Science, Military & History Reporter

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