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Canada's 10 most common seasonal allergies


Joanne Richard
Special to The Weather Network

Tuesday, April 11, 2017, 7:00 AM - Is Fluffy making you stuffy? Or is Rover sending you over the edge with a maddening runny nose and itchy eyes?

Welcome to the world of allergies. The truth is that while companion pets are good for our emotional wellbeing, they can also be very bad for allergy sufferers, causing a whole lot of sneezing and wheezing. 

Same for the great outdoors: It’s a real health booster for some but a curse for others. Warm weather unleashes a veritable vortex of airborne pollen and other indoor and outdoor allergens, affecting a growing number of us, making us all teary eyed and sniffly on nice sunny days.

Call it the agony and the allergy. Prepare to be deluged with pollen. 

First comes the tree pollen, with April and May being the peak times, soon followed by grass pollen, which peaks in June and July. Once the grass allergy season tapers off there’s no time for our watery eyes to dry up – here come the moulds in soils, compost and on grasses. It’s the spores in the moulds that may cause allergic reactions by ending up inside the nose, mouth and throat. Then there’s still no rest for the sneezers – come August to October, ragweed is the chief culprit, a major pollen producer, bringing misery far and wide. Especially if you live in the city, ragweed thrives in disturbed soil, growing bigger and producing much more pollen.

Add to that mess some dust mites and pet dander, and there’s no breathing easy for the masses of Canadians that suffer from seasonal allergies long after April showers and May flowers. Allergy suffers are especially taking a beating now that the warm weather has arrived, resigned to hibernating for a few more months instead of coming out of hiding after a long dreary winter. Their seasonal companion is a box of tissues while deluged with the annoying and fatiguing sniffles, sneezing, runny nose and itchy, watery eyes. 

"Allergies depend upon your geographical location; each region has pollens that are specific and the seasons vary with the weather," says Dr. Christine McCusker, an allergy and immunology expert at McGill University Health Center. "Common to most areas are the allergens that are not seasonal per se, such as dust mites and animal dander. Dust mite levels, however, are affected by humidity and thus will be more problematic in damp climates versus dry climates, and damp seasons versus dry seasons."

Specific tree pollens are a big offender and they vary in different parts of Canada, and so too variable weeds, says McCusker. 

10 Most Common Allergy-Inducers in Canada

• Pets
• Dust mites – they thrive in beds and carpet in warm, humid weather
Indoor/Outdoor mould
• Trees, especially oak trees which shed large amounts of pollen
• Grasses, including Bermuda and blue grass
• Ragweed
• Weeds
• Mildew
• Insect bites
Air pollution

"A look at the pollen reporting found on The Weather Network site is reported by geographic region for that reason," she says, adding among the worst offenders are the trees that shed airborne pollen, including ash, alder, birch, cedar, elm, oak and walnut.

Close to 25 per cent of Canadians suffer from seasonal allergies, though experts don’t have an exact breakdown of what affects people the most. One thing is for sure: Reactions to common airborne triggers, like ragweed and pollen, seem to be getting worse, affecting more people, and the season seems to be lasting longer too.

According to allergist and clinical immunologist Dr. Susan Waserman: "The prevalence of all allergic diseases has risen, including allergic rhinitis, food allergy, asthma and atopic dermatitis. The reasons for this are unclear and complex. One of the more popular explanations for which there is evidence is the hygiene hypothesis. For the past few decades we have been living more cleanly, better water and food sanitation, antibiotics, vaccines, etc. This has led to an immune system which has become dysregulated - it is no longer as busy fighting infection and has instead reprogrammed to developing allergy."

Other potential contributors include early use of antibiotics has lead to a change in microbes in the body, early exposure to acetaminophen, low Vitamin D levels, air pollution, diesel exhaust, traffic exposure, cigarette smoke exposure and more, says Waserman, of the Division of Clinical Immunology and Allergy at McMaster University.

Whatever the case may be, if you’re weeping while reading this and your face hurts and your head too, it’s likely one of these prime allergy-inducing offenders:


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