Are you afraid to go outside? Are you sneezing so much you feel faint? Do you wish you had bought stock in Kleenex? If you are suffering like this reporter is, you don’t need to be told that we are currently experiencing a severe allergy season in Berkeley — maybe one of the worst ever.
Gwynne Searls, a general medicine PA at the John Muir Medical Group, said their Orinda office had been overwhelmed with patients coming in with allergies over the past few weeks. “It’s astonishing,” she said. “We’ve seen many more patients than usual.” Searls said doctors were seeing patients who had never suffered from allergies before, as well as many who were suffering so badly they were feeling sick and having to take time off work.
As for the cause, Searls is uncertain. “There are so many patients, the conspiracy theorist in me began to wonder what exactly was going on,” she said. A more realistic reason, she said, was the unusual weather we have been having — with bursts of late-season rain causing pollen-rich plants to bloom in quantity.
It’s not restricted to Berkeley, of course. The Wall Street Journal reported that allergists in New York were reporting seeing a doubling and tripling of patients, exceeding previous records.
Here on the west coast, the pollen counts are showing decidedly unconvincing “Moderate” levels (see graph below, sourced on a particularly “sneezy” day last week from weather.com). The charts do not tally with the evidence to the contrary all around us: streaming noses, congestion and sneezing fits of the sort that are liable to drain every ounce of energy from you and send you to the nearest couch.
As for treatment, the usual antihistamines might help — be they in pill, nasal spray, or liquid form. Doctors can prescribe stronger doses than the over-the-counter variety, and generic brands come in cheaper if you are buying at a pharmacy or drugstore.
If you’ve heard preventative shots are the most effective way to go, the bad news is you’ve left it too late for this season. As the receptionist at the office of Berkeley allergist Dr Nataliya Kushnir put it: “You need to build up the immunity, so shots now won’t help much, but make sure you’re prepared for next year.”
Meantime, atishoo, atishoo to you too.