'Tis the season of blooming trees and sunshine, which also means the season of hacking, watery eyes, drowsiness and sneezing, thanks to pollen.
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If you're among myself and roughly 50 million Americans who suffer from seasonal allergies, it's likely you've already been popping the Zyrtec every morning to no avail.
When trees bloom, their pollen is released into the air for the purpose of fertilizing other plants. And when the tiny grains of pollen get into your nose, your immune system mistakes them for outside invaders and releases antibodies to attack them.
The battle between antibodies and allergens triggers the release of histamines, which are what cause your itchy eyes and runny nose (hence allergy meds being called anti-histamines).
While there are plenty of tips allergy sufferers can adopt, cities can also play a huge part in curbing seasonal allergies.
Cities are predominantly full of male trees as opposed to female ones, (surprise, surprise!) and because of this, your allergies are getting more severe.
This theory, introduced by horticulturist and author Thomas Ogren, goes all the way back to the 1940s, when the USDA recommended the selection of male trees over females, throwing off the balance, according to Governing.
It's because male trees are easier to maintain. They don't produce fruit or seeds like female trees do, which can attract pests and make a mess on sidewalks, according to Natural News.
But it's the pesky male trees that have the job of producing pollen, making the atmosphere even worse for allergy sufferers.
Ogren, who developed the Ogren Plants Allergy Scale used by the USDA, argues planting more female trees will reduce the pollen count in a city.
It makes sense. The job of female trees is to capture the pollen, essentially acting as natural air filters. But when they're nearly non-existent, we're left with a ton of pollen in the air with no females to trap it.
But it's important to note that it isn't just the gender inequality of trees causing your allergies.
But it can't hurt to have a little more equality among trees, too.
Citations: Allergy Facts (American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology), Allergic Tree Action (Governing), The Complete Guide to Fighting Seasonal Allergies Where You Live (CityLab), Allergies Increase: Botanical Sexism in Urban Environments Leads to Higher Pollen Counts (Natural News), Resources (European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology ), A Review of the Impact of Climate Variability and Change on Aeroallergens and Their Associated Effects (United States Environmental Protection Agency ), Environmental biodiversity, human microbiota, and allergy are interrelated (National Academy of the Sciences of the United States of America), Urban green zones and related pollen allergy: A review. Some guidelines for designing spaces with low allergy impact (Landscape and Urban Planning)