Remember when allergy sufferers only had pollen to contend with? Now, record pollen counts across Canada are being matched by record smog advisory alerts – a combination that is creating havoc on allergy sufferers’ lives.
Smog affecting allergies? Dr. Ross Chang, a leading allergy expert, says that the effects of smog and pollution on allergic suffering is becoming well recognized. “Smog itself may exaggerate or intensify symptoms. It has also been shown to stimulate the production of pollen in urban areas. As a result, allergic suffering is increasing in Canada and is extending beyond the traditional March to June timeframe.” Dr. Chang says that while the traditional allergy season starts in April, smog advisories can begin as early as February.
According to Environment Canada, air pollution affects not only those with respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, but allergy sufferers are also hard hit. Studies show that ragweed grows faster and produces greater pollen in urban locations, and this is expected to significantly increase if global warming continues. Further, air pollution impacts allergy suffering by increasing symptoms.
While there is no consistent monitor of air quality nationally, last year major cities across the country experienced double the number of smog advisories than previous years.
This dual effect of smog and pollen on Canadian allergy sufferers is taking its toll. According to the 2006 Reactine Quality of Life Index one quarter of allergy sufferers claim that their suffering increased by more than 50 per cent last year over previous years due to the increased smog. As a result, almost two thirds of sufferers claim their first line of defense is to increase medication.
Because of this, Dr. Chang says it’s important for sufferers to select antihistamines carefully. “Look for one with both a long safety record and proven to be fast-acting and effective, like those with an active ingredient like cetirizine, found in antihistamines like Reactine,” he says. “Living in a reduced overall state is not necessary – treating your allergies is key to enjoying the good life all year long.”
This year’s allergy season is expected to rival that of 2005, with another warm, wet spring and increased smog advisories. Get ready!
Leading Canadian allergist, Dr. Ross Chang, suggests the following Top Tips when smog and pollen are high:
1. Go Online: Check out your provincial online resource for air quality forecasting or start with Environment Canada’s Clean Air web site www.ec.gc.ca/cleanair-airpur.
2. Avoid Outdoor Activity: Consider teleconferencing; close windows at home and in the car; leave lawn and garden care to others; and/or join a gym.
3. Block Smog and Allergens: Treat your symptoms with a second-generation antihistamine. Second-generation antihistamines don’t cause drowsiness and work fast. With smog and pollen counts at record levels, you may be increasing your treatment. Dr. Chang suggests reading the label and choosing an antihistamine that is fast acting and has a long safety record, like Reactine.
4. Slash Smog: Help reduce smog/pollution by conserving electricity, not allowing cars to idle, avoiding mowing lawns when the Air Quality Index is poor, and not using oil-based products where possible. Further, limit the amount of wood burned in fireplaces or woodstoves.