Is It Really the Worst Allergy Season Ever This Time?

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Pre-sneeze face.
Pre-sneeze face. Photo: iStockphoto

If you're one of the many millions of Americans with seasonal allergies, the last two weeks or so have not been pleasant for you. You've probably spent much of your time rubbing your eyes, sneezing, blowing your nose, making empty threats at your nose, contemplating whether life would really be so bad if you just chopped off your nose, Googling information on prosthetic noses, and then taking six Benadryl and passing out for fourteen hours. You've also probably complained to disinterested non-allergic friends that this allergy season is especially bad, perhaps even the "worst allergy season ever!" Of course, that's what people say every year. But could it actually be true this time? Owing to a particularly wet winter and a dry April, New York allergists say that, yes, it could be.


Dr. Boyan Hadjiev, who's dubbed himself "Dr. Sneeze," called it "the worst season" he's seen since he opened his Manhattan practice seven years ago.

"We always say this is the worst season we've seen," Dr. Hadjiev admitted. Still, he insisted, "this one tops it."

Allergists across the city reported a doubling and tripling of patients, exceeding previous records. Clifford Bassett, who practices in Brooklyn and Manhattan, said he'd hired two additional phone operators and another nurse to handle an influx of patients.

"If we tabulated our phone records and compared quantitatively to the previous eight or nine years, we're seeing a volume of at least three to four times greater a day," said Dr. Bassett, who's also a spokesman for the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.

"The allergy misery index is rising," Dr. Bassett said. "It seems to be the perfect storm."

The experts agree! Your annoying friend who constantly complains about allergies is actually right this time! Then again, the experts can't exactly be trusted.

New York Sun, May 2008:

"I hate the term, 'This will be the worst year ever,' but this probably will be the worst year ever," an allergist in Albany who measures pollen counts there, Dr. David Shulan, said.

New York Post, May 2005:

"I'm seeing people who haven't gone outside in a week, and people who are miserable despite all the usual allergy medications and need cortisone eye drops or pills or both," says Dr. Gillian Shepherd, an allergy specialist at Manhattan's Weill Cornell Medical Center.

"I haven't had to prescribe those for the last 15 years." ....

They are turning to medication, both over-the-counter and prescription.

But this year, specialists say, don't expect something as simple as a pill to save the day.

"Most patients have a constellation of symptoms - runny nose, itchy eyes, sneezing," says Dr. Lisa Szubin, an otolaryngologist who's seeing more sufferers than usual this season.

Daily News, June 2003:

Dr. David Shulan, an allergist at Albany Medical Center, agreed that pollen counts have been "absolutely horrendous."

"I always shy away from saying this is the worst year ever, but this is," Shulan said. "We've been swamped lately."

The Star-Ledger, May 2001:

"I've been practicing in New Jersey for 26 years and honestly, this is the worst that I can remember. It's been completely off the wall," said Carl Weinschenk Jr., the pharmacist at Target Pharmacy in Bridgewater.

CBS News, May 1998:

Our health correspondent, Dr. Emily Senay, is here to tell us that El Nino may also take the rap for what could be the worst allergy season in, you say, 20 years.

Oh, stop pretending, Dr. David Shulan. You love claiming that it's "the worst season ever." It's one of your favorite things.

Sniff, Sneeze, Blow, Wipe, Repeat [WSJ]