Wellness Blog

Why are your allergies worse in Canada?

Posted by Dr. Paul Zickler

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June 7, 2016 at 6:26 AM

For many long months in spring and autumn, public transit becomes more of a nightmare due to non-stop sneezing, runny noses and discarded tissue boxes.  Hay fever is an unavoidable phenomenon for most people, affecting between 10-30% of the global population.  If you have allergies and have spent any length of time in Canada and the United States, you may also notice that allergy season can extend for tedious months the further north you go.  There are three driving factors that affect a person’s allergies: how much pollen is emitted into the air, the duration of exposure, and an individual’s reaction to allergens. 


The leCanada_allergies_Blog.jpgngth of pollen seasons generally increase as you move further north, up to an additional four weeks in Canada when compared to the shorter pollen seasons in the southern parts of the United States.  Climate change causing warmer overall conditions results in longer growing seasons, which affects the length of allergy season and increases the need to deal with allergies.

The occurrence of hay fever affects an estimated quarter of the Canadian population and are usually worse in the cities.  Large metropolitan areas act as heat sinks, where paved dark surfaces absorb more heat than rural locations.  This contributes to the growth and spread of pollen-producing plants like ragweed.  An increase of 30% more CO2 and 3.5°F in cities leads to faster growth, earlier flowering, and increased production of pollen in allergy-causing plants.  It’s no wonder why an entire bus of people may seem to be affected by watery eyes and uncontrollable sneezing.

In a survey posed to The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, specialists were asked how climate change would affect allergies in the next 20 years.  Almost two-thirds identified a need to increase care for allergic symptoms related to exposure of plants or mold, so it is important to know how to combat this increasing problem. 

Subdue your allergies

Allergies are usually treated with antihistamines and other allergy medications.  To alleviate the intensity of the allergy season, you can prepare your immunity by starting medication before you expect your symptoms to affect you.  Canada and the northern United States usually have a harder time with allergy seasons due to the increased length, so preparation is important to manage the months suffering from allergies.

Other tips that can help you are:

  • Checking the local pollen counts
  • Staying indoors on dry and windy days
  • Keeping windows closed
  • Remove and clean clothes that you’ve worn outside

The Worst Cities in Canada for Allergies

The severity of allergy seasons are dependent on location and geography.  Plants that produce large amounts of pollen such as ragweed plants in Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec, will only affect certain areas of the country.  In addition, geographic conditions have a lot to do with the spread of pollen.

  • Edmonton: The prominence of agriculture around Edmonton, combined with a dry environment, contributes to a high level of airborne mould. For people sensitive to mould, the tortuous allergy seasons occur in both spring and fall, so it is recommended to begin treatments before allergies start.
  • Toronto: The dominant allergen around Toronto is ragweed, which produces a fine powdery pollen.  The dense population and high temperatures in Toronto contribute to the growth of allergy-causing plants and amount of pollen.  In addition, Toronto’s propensity for smog only amplifies the severity of allergic reactions in the city.
  • Vancouver: The beauty of this west coast city is closely associated with their urban forests, but it causes some difficulty for people suffering from hay fever. The density of trees such as alder and birch, which are notorious for producing pollen, can make allergy season miserable.  Generally coastal cities are better for allergies, as breezes by the ocean help reduce allergens.  However, many parts of the metro Vancouver area are far from the ocean and swarmed with trees.

Topics: Wellness, Allergies, Enironmental, Body

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