Is this allergy season the worst ever? While some people describe this year’s symptoms as very severe, allergy experts told The Jerusalem Post they so far have no reason to believe that what is happening is different from the past.
In 2021, the Western hemisphere has been waiting for the arrival of spring more eagerly than ever, hoping that the possibility of spending more time outdoors will give a decisive contribution against the severity of the coronavirus morbidity, as happened last year. However, for those who suffer from seasonal allergies, warmer weather and nature blossoming present considerable challenges.
“I know that people are starting to feel allergies, but I haven’t seen more patients coming to us than usual,” said Dr. David Hagin, director of the Allergy and Immunology Unit at Sourasky Medical Center’s Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv. “On the other hand, we might be partially biased because we are focusing so much time on allergy-related issues in connection with the coronavirus vaccine.”
It is still too early to evaluate this season, but the symptoms people are experiencing might be somehow connected with the characteristics of this unusual time, he said.
“Perhaps people were used to keeping on a mask all the time, and they were more protected, and now they are starting to wear them less and therefore are more exposed,” Hagin said.
Last year, when it was allergy season, Israel was in the middle of its first and most strict lockdown.
If people were less exposed last year because they spent most of the time indoors, they could have forgotten the severity of the symptoms, and this might have led them to feel especially down this year, Hagin said.
However, Prof. Nancy Agmon, head of the Clinical Immunology, Angioedema and Allergy Unit at Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer, said the situation is actually better this year than in previous seasons.
“We have not encountered any increase in problems related to allergies,” she said. “On the contrary, people are wearing a mask, so they’re less exposed to the pollens.”
Among the several factors determining the severity of seasonal allergies, the pollen count is the most important one, Agmon said.
“But even if the pollen count is high, if someone puts a barrier between the environment and their airways, like a mask, they will clearly be less exposed,” she said.
Both experts emphasized that no study has been conducted on this year’s allergy season, so there can be no certainties.
Allergies develop due to a combination of factors, including genetic predisposition and environmental elements.
So far, people who suffer from allergies do not appear to be more at risk of getting infected with the coronavirus or to develop more severe symptoms, Hagin said.
“I also want to emphasize that they shouldn’t be concerned about receiving the vaccine,” he said. “The vaccine hasn’t caused any significant allergic reaction. Even those with a history of allergies can be jabbed; they just need to be inoculated under supervision. There is a lot of disinformation on the topic.”