Four things you didn’t know about seasonal allergies

Maggie Koerth-Baker on the science of the snuffles of spring. Relief may not be at hand without drugs, but knowledge has its comforts.

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Scientists develop allergies to their research subjects

Sometimes, allergies show up almost immediately. Other times, they form over long periods of close exposure to the allergens. It's this later issue that can be a big problem for scientists and their ability to work with certain laboratory animals. Fifteen to 20 percent of scientists who work with mice and rats may eventually become allergic to those animals, writes Hilary Rosner in The New York Times. So what happens when your immune system affects your ability to do your job?

Happy Spring!

It's the first day of Spring! To celebrate, here is a photo that science journalist Maryn McKenna took of her car windshield in Atlanta, Georgia, coated with a single day's worth of pollen. Please file "tree bukkake" under "Things I Do Not Miss About the South".

Interesting science side note on this: It's pretty well-documented that climate changes are affecting pollen production, pollen exposure, and allergies.

USDA scientist Lewis Ziska, among other researchers, has found that ragweed is one of the plants whose growth is most enhanced by exposure to higher concentrations of carbon dioxide. Not only does the ragweed grow faster when exposed to more CO2, it also produces more pollen. This is especially an issue in cities, which have higher concentrations of CO2 than rural areas, thanks to having a higher concentration of cars and other CO2 emitting sources. Extra bonus: There's also some evidence that allergy seasons are getting longer, as Spring starts earlier and Winter takes longer to truly set in.

You can read more about this in the report from the IPCC's Working Group II and in a paper on the effects of climate change on health written by Ziska and his collaborator, the late Paul Epstein.