No, it’s not just you: allergy outbreaks *are* worse this spring, with everyone and their mum sneezing their brains out their nose because of this miserable hay fever. But turns out there’s a reason for this sudden warfare against our respiratory systems.

Is it allergies or is it COVID? A question I’ve had to ask myself daily because not only am I suffering from the usual sneezing and congestion I get around this time of year, I’m now coughing and getting a sore, itchy throat too. Not even my trusty 24-hour Telfast is getting me through the day, and mates of mine who have never had allergies before are now finding themselves sneezing on the daily.

Dr Zac Turner (@drzacturner), a medical practitioner who specialises in preventative wellness, told PEDESTRIAN.TV we’re not alone in feeling like allergy season is worse than usual. His patients have been copping it too and he reckons part of the reason people’s allergies have amped up is a combination of heavy rains and hot sunny weather. So basically, this is all La Niña’s fault. That bitch.

But first, let’s explain what causes allergies.

Allergy outbreaks, like sneezing and getting all snotty, happen when the body responds “inappropriately to normal stimuli”, according to Dr Zac.

“[The immune system] can actually confuse what it should be doing, i.e. protecting us from microbes and other threats, and instead unleash its protective response to something that’s already in the environment,” he explained.

“What happens is it thinks it’s protecting us, but it’s actually being over-stimulated.

“The ‘allergen’, which could be pollen from a tree for example, stimulates cells in the body. Those cells then release something called ‘histamine’, and that causes cells to start swelling up and producing more mucus to get rid of allergens from that area.”

Hence why you’re serving the wrong kind of drip this spring.

@pedestriantv

I cannot remember the last time I took a clear breath. #spring #ptv #hayfever #pollen #achoo

♬ Wes Anderson-esque Cute Acoustic – Kenji Ueda

So, why are our allergies so much worse right now?

There are a few factors that have made our allergies worse over the years: pollution, dust from greater populations, those evil plane trees plaguing Sydney and Melbourne’s CBD. But the reason allergies have gotten so bad this spring in particular seems to be because of La Niña.

“This year in particular we’ve had so much rain, which has then been followed by really hot days. What happens then is that grass and other plants are going nuts,” Dr Zac said.

Spring is plant baby-making time. Pair the sunshine and warmth of spring with the rainy, humid weather patterns of La Niña and what do we get? An explosion of pollen waging war on us poor allergy sufferers.

“When the sun hits them and things get hot, it basically stimulates them to release lots of their allergens,” he continued.

“When they get lots of rain and grow crazily, and then get hit with all this sun, it basically triggers this response that says ‘Blow up! Release everything! This is the perfect time to be spreading!’.”

What can we do to manage our symptoms and not sneeze our souls out of our bodies?

Antihistamines are the obvious first step if you’re having a sneeze attack in allergy season because they essentially tell your body to chill out and stop over-reacting to random stimuli, which then lessens your reaction to pollen.

But, as we all know, sometimes antihistamines just don’t cut it. When that happens, your next step is to clear out allergens from your nose to ease your body’s immune system melt-down.

The easiest way you can do that, according to Dr Zac, is by hopping into a hot shower or a sauna. The steam from all that hot water breaks down mucus. This makes it easier for you to blow out all the yuckies, which in turn will help reduce the sneezing.

However, hay fever doesn’t just affect your nose.

“It’s not just that allergens that sit right at the front [of your nose] — it’s actually your sinuses at the back that cause a lot of the issues,” Dr Zac explained.

“Now I don’t think you should snort salty water, that may be a bit painful, but there’s a lot of different tools that you can use to flush your airways.

“You can get saline or salt water rinses that you can pour up there and let soak through slowly.”

Getting a nasal irrigation system for your home (or a nussy blaster, as my fellow allergy-suffering colleague likes to call them) is really handy during allergy season because you can flush all that pollen right out of your body, which then means there’s less to stress it out.

Washing your clothes and bed sheets also gets rid of pollen stuck on you, which should help clear you up.

And yes, blasting your nussy full of salt water sounds kinda scary, but if that really worries you, then just go for a dip at the beach.

“Even going for a surf or getting dunked by a wave — just getting into salt water — is really good for clearing out the sinus,” Dr Zac recommended.

Well there ya have it folks, your full guide to surviving La Niña’s chaos allergy season. Good luck and god speed.