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Bad Year For Seasonal Allergies

By: Tony Johal

Bad Year For Seasonal Allergies





If tree pollen has you wheezing, just wait for ragweed 'super bloom'

Seasonal allergy sufferers struggling through spring could be in for even worse

Tree pollen levels are high in Ottawa this spring, and the coming ragweed season is expected to test allergy sufferers, too. (PhotoMediaGroup / Shutterstock)

If you're already sneezing and wheezing your way through tree pollen season in Ottawa, a local allergist has some unwelcome news for you: grass and ragweed season could be even worse.

Dr. Antony Ham Pong, who's been treating allergy patients for about 35 years, warns the combination of a wet spring and heavy snow melt threaten to create a "super bloom of ragweed with lots of pollen."

Ham Pong said some patients are already taking precautions.

"Some of my patients who have stopped their treatment in the past years have said, 'OK, I'm going to start treatment again this year because I'm not looking forward to summer ragweed season," he said. 

Tree pollen levels high

Ottawa is currently in the throes of a particularly nasty tree pollen season, according to Aerobiology Research Laboratories.

The company studies pollen levels in cities across Canada, analyzing data collected from measuring stations to produce pollen forecasts. 

Aerobiology Research Laboratories collects data from measuring stations to produce pollen forecasts. Daniel Coates, the company's director of marketing and business development, says this year's tree pollen levels are very high. 1:08

"In Ottawa this is a higher-level season, mainly because of last year's weather, and we keep seeing longer seasons and slightly higher intensity of the pollen that's in the air," said Daniel Coates, the company's director of marketing and business development.

This year, Ottawa has already surpassed total tree pollen counts for 2015, 2016 and 2018, Coates said, and is expected to meet or eclipse 2017 levels. 

Daniel Coates of Aerobiology Research Laboratories stands beside a pollen sampling station in Ottawa. It's one of 34 stations across the country used to help the company forecast pollen levels. (Robyn Miller/CBC)

Fighting back

This year's forecast isn't great news for Caio Lima, 29, who said he's allergic to nearly every tree that blooms in the spring. 

"I typically do a nasal spray and eye drops when needed. I try to stay away from the Reactine or the similar [antihistamines], just because they make me feel like a zombie," Lima said.


Caio Lima suffers from seasonal allergies and says this year has been particularly bad. (Robyn Miller/CBC)

Lima developed his allergies about 10 years ago, but he's also developed strategies to get through tough seasons like this one. 

"If I go outside I typically come back, take a shower, clean all my clothes. It's a little more annoying, just have to be more careful."

Unfortunately for Lima, he's also allergic to ragweed, so there's no real relief in sight.

You can't quell their fears if you know it's going to be bad, but you can actually treat them.- Dr. Antony Ham Pong

"You can't quell their fears if you know it's going to be bad, but you can actually treat them," Ham Pong said.

"Make sure they have their medication in hand, have the right action plan, start their medications just before or as soon as the ragweed season begins and make sure they take the medications daily during the season, not on and off."

He also suggests staying indoors with windows and doors closed as much as possible.




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