Affecting nearly 20% of Americans, allergies are described medically as, “a condition in which the immune system reacts abnormally to a foreign substance.” In layman’s terms, they’re an annoying, persistent reaction to various different things. One of the most commonly experienced allergies is to pollen, often resulting in hay fever.
The problem with this is that not all of us live in highly-pollinated areas. For example, someone living in Manhattan is going to come into contact with pollen, less than someone who lives in a rural area. But that certainly isn’t stopping inhabitants of large cities from coming down with seasonal hay fever. However, it isn’t so much the pollen count that is making you sensitive to allergens, but rather the landscape.
Contrary to popular belief, allergies are most common in highly-industrialized areas. Statistically, it is more likely for someone living in an urban setting to have allergies than someone surrounded by land. On the surface level, this makes absolutely no sense, given that there are more plants in rural areas as opposed to urbanized cities. However, it isn’t the amount of trees that can alter the severity of your allergies, but the gender.
Most trees planted in popular cities have been selected for decades because of their tendency to produce little seeds or fruit. This happens to be a characteristic of male trees, and therefore, a majority of trees in urban areas are male. It was in 1949 that the USDA recommended planting male shrubbery in streets and parks. The downside of this is that male trees shed pollen. So while we’re keeping our walkways clean, our air is another story.
Next time you’re waking up with puffy eyes or sneezing through the day, just thank the shrubbery patriarchy. (Not really, but it’s fun to blame all our problems on that.)