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Stuffy nose, sneezing fits and itchy eyes? Hello allergy season in Metro Vancouver

It might only get worse, sorry.
It's pollinating season in B.C.

If you woke up near the Metro Vancouver Area with congestion on Thursday morning, you likely aren’t alone. 

A Vancouver-based allergist and immunologist at Vancouver General Hospital and St. Paul's Hospital says not only is it peak tree pollen time, but also that allergies are on the rise. 

"In B.C., the springtime allergens in February till about June are mostly tree pollens; those are things like alder, birch, oak, maple... those are what is blooming right now,” says Dr. Juan Ruiz.

He notes seasonal allergies are on the rise due to global warming. 

“Around this time, the tree pollens are at the highest and are starting to bloom, so a lot of people who are allergic to trees are starting to have symptoms,” he says. 

Congestion, itchy nose, itchy eyes and sneezing fits are common symptoms for people who are allergic to trees. 

Ruiz and his colleagues are seeing seasonal allergies getting worse over the years. 

"The pollens have become more immunogenic, so they elicit a more powerful immunological response and that is because particular matter or pollution attached to a pollen... [it] activates in your system to a far greater degree,” he tells Glacier Media.

Pollinating seasons are also getting longer, he says, and the amount of pollen produced is higher. 

“It’s more business for us, but not so good for patients.”

How do I get allergy relief?

There are several things you can do to help relieve your annoying allergy symptoms, according to Ruiz.

A saltwater rinse can help reduce the allergens inside the nasal cavity while over-the-counter antihistamines and a nasal spray once a day can relieve some discomfort.

If that doesn’t work, it might be time to be referred to an allergist. 

Ruiz can also do immunotherapy to reprogram people’s immune systems so their allergies are not as severe. 

"That is something we can offer our patients when they’re failing all the treatments,” he says.

But it might take some time to get into an allergist. 

“My waitlist is about four months; there are a couple of people who have like a year waitlist,” he says. 

On average, Ruiz says it could take six months to see an allergist and you must be referred to one.