The main culprit behind the sneezing is pollen, which is essentially plant sperm — and nature is promiscuous. (You know this if you have ever seen your car turn yellow overnight.) One ragweed plant alone can produce a billion grains. Early in the spring, trees such as oak and birch shed the stuff. By late spring through fall, grasses and weeds take over as major sources, so there’s the potential for months of suffering. The wind can carry grains for miles, and they are small enough to get into your eyes, nose, and lungs. “Allergies happen when your immune system misidentifies pollen as a threatening invader and overreacts,” says Bassett, who is also the author of The New Allergy Solution. Mast cells, immune cells found in connective tissue in the skin, nose, lungs, and elsewhere, pump out histamine, which creates inflammation and causes your runny nose, itchy eyes, and sneezing. (Any sniffle can be alarming in these times, but there are ways to distinguish allergy symptoms from Covid-19 symptoms.)
We always lived with members of my extended family. Basically throughout my childhood, a cousin or an uncle was always on their way to somewhere and our house in Tampa was a pit stop along the way, which was really cool. Our home life consisted of a joint family. My dad has three brothers and one sister, and borders were porous. Now we’ve spread out but only a little — three uncles live within 15 minutes of each other, and everybody still hangs out with everybody.
As for how medicine came into my life, one of my dad’s brothers lived with us during medical school. He studied pediatrics and I have really clear memories of hearing about his experiences and feeling strongly influenced by that. Also, my mom triple majored in sciences in college, and she plays an important role in my life. So doctoring was kind of in the blood for me. Additionally, on the pediatric side of things, I have also always loved kids, maybe because of cohabitating with lots of different generations.”