Karen Ha

As I was handed my physics midterm, achoo!

Following two more sneezes, I was tearing up and sniffling. An allergy attack during a midterm was exactly what I needed. As I desperately dug through my backpack for tissues, I heard a symphony of sneezes echoing through the room as well. Like most of my fellow UCSB students, I am currently suffering from allergy season.

Allergies occur when the immune system unusually responds to a foreign substance. These foreign substances can be anything from food to dust, or, every spring, pollen. Since it is spring season, it is quite common to have pollen in the air trigger allergic reactions. However, allergy season seems to be especially worse for most students this year.

The measure of the number of pollen grain per cubic meter of air is called the pollen count. According to Pollen.com, the past week averaged around medium-high in pollen count. This begs the question: is allergy season worse this year for Santa Barbara?

“There are no data yet, but it certainly seems that we are seeing more students with allergy symptoms needing treatment compared to previous years,” said Dr. Ali Javanbakht, the medical director of the University of California, Santa Barbara’s Student Health Services. “This is most likely due to the heavier than usual rainfall we had.”

The next questions: why is allergy season worse this year? What could have made allergy season worse than previous years?

Carla D’Antonio, a UCSB professor who has a joint position in the environmental studies and ecology evolution and marine biology department, does research in plant community and ecosystem ecology. “This could be because of the pattern of rainfall,” D’Antonio wrote in an email to The Bottom Line. “A heavy rain (around February 17th) probably got well into the rooting profile of the shrubs, allowing them to sustain flowering for much longer than normal.”

Now we have an idea as to why allergy season seems to be worse this year. What are the recommended treatments for allergy?

“The mainstay of allergy treatment is antihistamines and steroid nose sprays … both available over the counter,” said Javanbakht. “The thing to keep in mind is that the steroid nose sprays, while they are the most effective treatment for allergies, take a few days to start working and only work if someone uses them regularly. There are other prescription sprays and oral medications that can help control allergies. But those are by prescription only.

Allergy season seems to be worse for Santa Barbara residents this year due to the large amount of rainfall that we received in the beginning of the year. This explains the increased number of students going to Student Health for allergy treament. Remember to stock up on tissues and allergy medication.