Allergy season is here, but the good news is it's not as bad as last year

It's that time of year again, with allergy sufferers heading to pharmacies looking for relief from streaming noses and itchy eyes.

Snow mould, pollen and spores are all flying in Calgary

Pharmacist Brian Jones with Shoppers Drug Mart in Bridlewood says the annual rush for allergy meds has begun. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

It's that time of year again, with allergy sufferers heading to pharmacies looking for relief from streaming noses and itchy eyes.

Pollen, spores and snow mould are all causing people issues as the temperatures rise.

This year, factors like stress due to the pandemic, returning to workplaces and world events like the war in Ukraine could be making things worse for sufferers, according to a local pharmacist.

Stress can impact the body's allergic response. There is also the psychological stress of dealing with symptoms.

"A lot of people are like, 'I've never had allergies in my life,' and keeping in mind we've been quite isolated for the last two years. Perhaps they're coming across things they've not come across before, and stress can definitely play a role," said Brian Jones, a pharmacist at the Bridlewood Shoppers Drug Mart.

Jones says adding to the stress this year is people having to constantly explain their symptoms to colleagues and strangers.

"A lot of the nasal symptoms we've seen with COVID-19 are very similar to allergies. A lot of the allergy sufferers are having a really hard time because, of course, trying to tell someone it's allergies when we're all watching for COVID-19 symptoms has been hard on sufferers as well," said Jones. 

Jones says there are steps people can take, as well as the usual medications.

"Allergy avoidance is one of the best things you can do. Keep your windows closed, wash your pillow cases and make sure you shower and change your clothes when you come in from outside," said Jones.

Allergy sufferers heading back to workplaces are having to explain their symptoms to colleagues who worry they might have COVID. (Shutterstock)

The good news is things are nowhere near as bad as they were last year, according to a company that monitors the air in Calgary.

Aerobiology Research Laboratories manufacture and use air samplers that collect pollen and spore samples from across Canada. This data on conditions that spark allergies allows the company to forecast pollen like the weather.

It turns out that Alberta isn't as badly impacted by allergy causing pollens as some other provinces.

"You folks don't get ragweed like Ontario, and all the pollen from cedar trees like B.C. Calgary isn't one of the highest pollen producing cities we have. It's not in the top five," said the company's director of business development, Daniel Coates.

Coates estimates Calgary sits around 15th out of 30 cities across Canada.

Pollen is measured in grains per cubic metre. This time last year, Calgary had over 7,684 grains in the air, compared with 1,269 this year.

Coates says last spring was exceptional for weather in Calgary and this year is more normal.

"Last year, you had 10 days at the very high range; this year, it's only been two," Coates said.

Coates says pollen levels are increasing across Canada due to climate change and the types of trees cities prefer for public spaces. But he says Calgary isn't increasing like some other locations.


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