Betty Diaries: Worst allergy season ever?

Kate Sonnick
Betty Diaries
Kate Sonnick
Kate Sonnick

I opened my door and there was a fresh four-pack of Puff’s Ultra Soft tissues. Thank you, same-day Amazon delivery. I swear to Bezos, my allergies are killing me right now. Anyone else?

I’m scratching my eyes more than a Real Housewives cat fight. I’ve wadded up enough Puffs to cover a Rose Parade Royal Court float. Claritin is not even coming close to cutting it. I am a zombie-walking Nyquil commercial: the nighttime sniffling, sneezing, coughing, stuffy head, wide awake at 2am, deathscrolling Instagram, so you can just leave me here to die medicine.

And don’t get me started on the sneezing. My once-delicate choo! which has been complimented as “You give cute sneeze,” has turned into a full-blown cartoon airhorn loud enough to startle my poor dog out of a full sleep.

In case you’ve ever wondered about the nature of a sneeze, the sudden burst of air expelled from the lungs through the nose and mouth is actually the result of inflammation of your nose’s trigeminal nerve. Holding in a sneeze may be good for manners, but it’s bad for brains — potentially causing things like aneurysms. And here’s an icebreaker for your next awkward mountain-bike date: Did you know a sneeze is also called a sternutation? Grab a Puffs Plus and swipe left.

But wait. There’s more. You know when you feel like you have to sneeze and it’s just not happening? Look at a bright light. It’s called a photic sneeze reflex and it’s actually a trait you inherit from a parent.

Ahh, so that’s it. It all makes sense now. This is just genetic karma for all of the times my siblings and I would make fun of our parents’ sneezes — my mother’s soprano yodel aaaa-HOO! and my father’s low and distinguished BWUH-foom, which he humbly delivered as a special kind of Namaste. We always knew exactly where they were in the house based on those distinctive sounds. I’m convinced their signature sneezes were an early precurser to sophisticated military geolocation devices.

And it’s not just about the sneezing. All of my 2023 allergy symptoms have turned into a seasonal nightmare. One moment, I’m a perfectly normal, nicely groomed human out on a mountain bike ride with friends, breathing in the fall air and marveling at the wildflowers. A single sneeze later, I’ve transformed into a snot-rocketing, roiling incubus with the swollen, teary eyes of a girl who just got dumped by the king of the prom. And rightly so.

Forget the Year of the Rabbit. The way I see it, 2023 may go down in allergy history as the Year of the Golden Poisonous Dart Frog. Or the year of the Swarm of Giant Murder Hornets.

When I say allergies, I’m referring to hay fever. Which involves neither hay nor fever. The Mayo Clinic says the condition is also known as allergic rhinitis, perhaps etymologically inspired by the rhinoceros-worthy sound effects it causes.

Hay fever is the body’s response to all kinds of stuff we encounter inside and out. Ragweed? I never met him. I honestly don’t even know what it looks like. But I am reasonably certain ragweed is the culprit. A single plant can release a billion grains of pollen into the air. It thrives in cool nights and warm, dry days. Oh, hello, like right now. Hay fever usually kicks in right after Labor Day and doesn’t subside until the first hard frost.

Googling “worst allergy season 2023,” confirms my suspicions. “It’s not your imagination, allergy season is extra bad this year,” says PBS. “Allergies are getting worse with climate change,” says the Harvard School of Public Health. The Washington Post even offers a list of the best and worst places to live based on allergens. The allergy capital of the world?  Wichita, Kansas. As for the best? Let’s just say if there were a Super Bowl for pollen count, Buffalo would finally put one in the W column.

Scanning down the list of “best” cities to live with allergies, I spy one that hits close to home. It may be high on sodium, but it turns out Salt Lake is low on allergens. Go figure. My seasonal allergy symptoms may beg to differ, but perhaps there’s a new state slogan in here somewhere.

Utah. Come for the ski season, stay for the allergy season. Bwuh-foom.


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