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Why Your Allergies Seem To Be Worse This Year In Kansas City

Emily Whitty
Submitted photo

If your allergies seem more severe this year in Kansas City, you're not alone.

That's according to Dr. Jay Portnoy, who leads the allergy and asthma department at Children's Mercy Hospital.

"We've been tracking pollen for 15 years in the Kansas City area and over that time, the pollen count has been slowly increasing," Portnoy says. "Each year is getting a little bit worse."  

On Thursday, Portnoy explained to Up To Date Host Steve Kraske that the day's tree pollen count was only 529, but two weeks ago, it hit an all-time high of 9,000.

Here are some key takeaways from the rest of the interview with Portnoy:

Why Is This Allergy Season Worse?

  • Higher carbon dioxide levels — Carbon dioxide changes the way the plants metabolize the nutrients.  Higher levels also induce plants to produce more pollen. When this happens, the pollen becomes more potent, as well.
  • Longer winter — Normally, different trees have different peak pollen levels at different times.  This year's delayed spring causes a "stacking" effect.  An overlap of peak pollen times can cause a more severe reaction for some allergy sufferers.   
  • You're too young — Allergies tend to decrease in people older than 40.  "We just become less immune to things as we get older and that includes allergens."

What Can You Do To Fight Allergies?

  • Antihistamines — Look for over-the-counter, non-drowsy allergy pills. 
  • Nasal steroids — They reduce congestion and inflammation. 
  • Nasal antihistamines — They help provide relief for itching and sneezing.  
  • Allergy shots — Injections can be effective because they are given in a more controlled and consistent manner that induces an immune response.  
  • Sublingual tablets — Two new dissolvable tablets for grass pollen allergies, Oralair and Grastek, were introduced last week.  Patients hold these allergy tablets under their tongue for about a minute once a day.      

Jenny Whitty is a weekend announcer for KCUR 89.3.