Allergies Getting Worse? Blame the ‘Pollen Vortex’

Allergies Getting Worse? Blame the ‘Pollen Vortex’

It’s not your imagination: Year after year, pollen counts are rising, resulting in aggravated symptoms for seasonal allergy sufferers — and increasing the likelihood that previously allergy-free older adults may notice symptoms for the first time in their lives.

“We are seeing increased pollen counts with the change in climate,” says Janna Tuck, M.D., an allergist and spokesperson for the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Pollen is not only appearing earlier in the season, she says, but it’s sticking around longer, too.

A study published in March in The Lancet Planetary Health found that airborne pollen counts have gone up around the world in recent decades. Analysis of 17 locations across three continents found that the majority have seen an increase in both the amount of pollen and the duration of pollen season over the last 20 years.

That uptick, which can result in what Tuck calls a “pollen vortex,” could mean increased risk for those who are already genetically susceptible to the pollen allergies that plague millions of Americans each spring.

“I see people of both sexes and of all ages presenting with new-onset allergies,” Tuck says. “It’s profoundly confusing to people.”

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