Millions of people suffer from allergies during the spring when pollen counts soar. In recent years, doctors have heard many patients complain that their spring allergies are worse than ever. That may be true. Warmer temperatures across the country in recent years have triggered high pollen counts and more sneezing, coughing, wheezing, and watery eyes.
“Unfortunately, it’s true that in the past few years, the amount of pollen in the air during spring allergy season seems to have gotten worse,” says allergist Bryan Martin, DO, president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology. “One of the reasons is the effects of climate change. Increased carbon dioxide from longer growing seasons as a result of warmer weather has a positive effect on pollen production. That means a negative effect on those suffering from pollen allergens.”
A study in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology reported that pollen counts climb each year, and researchers predict they will double by 2040. If you regularly suffer from allergies in the spring, consider making an appointment with your doctor now to avoid problems before they start. After a mild winter, pollen may be released from trees earlier in the spring, and allergy seasons can be longer. Once this early pollen arrives on the scene, an allergy sufferer’s immune system is off and running in response. That means regardless of the weather for the rest of the season, the allergic reaction will continue. Once the first warm days of spring arrive, begin taking allergy medication. Be aware that spring rain showers will produce flowers that can also aggravate symptoms. Wind that comes along with a storm can help stir up and spread allergens like pollen and mold. Allergists advise sufferers to stay indoors when pollen counts are highest, which is often midday and afternoon hours.
There’s no cure for spring allergies. However, allergy shots (immunotherapy) can help relieve symptoms and prevent disease progression. Immunotherapy can also be tailored for an individual’s needs. So if you are allergic to pollens, dust, and pets, allergy shots can provide you with relief from these allergens.
Here are additional tips from the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology.
- See an allergist—researchers found that most people with seasonal allergies prefer prescription medication. However, the majority of allergy sufferers rely on over-the-counter medicines to keep their symptoms in check. An allergist can prescribe the medication that will work best for you.
- Be proactive—if you start taking allergy medication before you experience symptoms, a lot of suffering can be avoided. Don’t wait until April or May to start your medicine regimen. For maximum effect, begin taking your medication two to three weeks before you normally start feeling the symptoms of allergies.
- Consider allergy shots—most people don’t realize that an allergy shot, also called immunotherapy, is a natural allergy treatment. By starting with a small dose of allergens and working up to larger amounts, your body naturally builds resistance as your immune system becomes desensitized.
- Consider your environmentkeep an eye on the weather report for days when pollens and molds are high. Take your medication when counts are high—don’t wait for symptoms to start. Avoid going outside during the day. That’s when pollen counts are at their highest. Protect yourself from allergens by closing windows and doors and using the air conditioning in your home and car. If you need to work outdoors, try to schedule it after a good rain, and wear a NIOSH-rated 95 filter mask. When you’re done, take a shower, wash your hair, and put on fresh clothes to reduce exposure. Don’t hang clothes out to dry during allergy season.