Strapping on a gas mask and inflating the sterilized bubble that will soon be your new abode? Stop, put down the bicycle pump, and take these easy steps first.
From the Editors of Women’s Health
For nearly 36 million Americans, spring comes with a major buzzkill: allergies. And natural allergies are only getting more severe. Allergies to pollen, ragweed, and other common airborne triggers have doubled in the past 20 years–a 5 percent per decade increase since the 1970s–clogging up even those who’ve always been sniffle-free.
Plus, allergy seasons are longer. “Hay fever is typically caused by trees in the spring, grasses in the summer, and ragweed in the fall,” explains Paul R. Epstein, M.D., associate director of the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School. But thanks to global warming, our growing seasons are lengthening. “In some states, spring is coming 10 to 14 days earlier than it did 20 years ago,” says Kim Knowlton, Dr.P.H., a senior scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Health and Environment program. And that trend is likely to continue.
Get a grip on your allergies by crushing your culprits first:
Pollen is growing out of control. In case you’ve erased ninth-grade bio from your brain, here’s a recap: To grow, plants require sunlight, water, warmth, and carbon dioxide. But these days they’re getting way more of those last two than they need.
“Ten years ago we thought, ‘OK, more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere means more energy for plants, so they’ll grow better,’” Epstein says. Weeds (such as ragweed), however, aren’t merely flourishing; they’re reproducing like jackrabbits. And there’s not just extra pollen circulating around your schnoz–the CO2 overload has also led to a kind of superpollen that’s more allergenic, so that just a teeny amount can get your nose running.