Spring and summer are allergy seasons for pollen-sensitive people. Unfortunately, as a result of climate change, allergy season has been beginning earlier and lasting longer each year. Additionally, there is a 21% increase in pollen released into the air, which can aggravate people with airborne allergies or asthma during the warmer months.
For those with airborne allergies, the good news is that there are strategies for limiting exposure to irritants and treatments available. Individuals with this condition who spend significant time outdoors or engage in outdoor exercise are particularly vulnerable during the spring and summer months. Here are our suggestions for managing symptoms while continuing to do what you enjoy:
When is allergy season at its peak?
Depending on the allergen, the peak allergy season can last from February to November. Early- to mid-spring is when tree pollen is at its peak, and March is typically when it is at its worst. Grass pollen is at its peak in late May and early June. Pollen from weeds and ragweeds typically peaks in July or August and continues through the end of the summer. Knowing which allergens to avoid can assist in preparing for the worst-case scenario.
How can I avoid a miserable allergy season?
Experts recommend starting treatment for allergy season approximately two weeks before it reaches its peak, which is one reason knowing the peak of your specific allergy trigger can be beneficial. For instance, if you are aware that grass pollen tends to trigger the most severe flare-ups of your symptoms, beginning allergy medication in mid-May can make life much easier later on.
Pollen counts are kept track of through online listings and phone apps that provide daily counts for your area. Obtaining information on the pollen count’s peak in your area can assist you in preparing. During peak season, wearing a pollen mask while participating in outdoor activities or exercising can help reduce exposure. The silver lining of mask use during a pandemic is that it can actually reduce pollen inhalation.
What are the most effective over-the-counter allergy medications?
Antihistamines are the first line of defense against allergies. Antihistamines such as Claritin, Zyrtec, or Allegra are examples of over-the-counter medications that do not cause drowsiness (or generic versions of these drugs). Benadryl may also be effective, but it may cause drowsiness, making it an inappropriate choice if you are working, driving, or performing any other activity that requires focused attention.
Decongestants such as Sudafed or Afrinol (or generic equivalents) can help alleviate symptoms such as congestion and sneezing. While saline-based nasal sprays containing medication can help you breathe easier on days when your allergies are particularly bad, they can also cause damage to the nasal tissue, so use with caution. According to some experts, nasal sprays can develop a habit after a few days of use due to tissue damage—as the tissue in the nose is damaged, it can make it more difficult to breathe easily without using the additional product.
When should I consult my physician about my allergies?
Consult your healthcare provider if you are unable to find relief from over-the-counter allergy medications such as Claritin. They may be able to prescribe you stronger medications.
Allergies can trigger asthma in some cases. If you experience symptoms such as wheezing or difficulty breathing—particularly following exercise—this could be an allergic asthma attack. In this case, it may be necessary to have an inhaler, so speak with a medical provider to ensure that you are prepared for peak allergy season.
Any suggestions for avoiding allergens in the air?
While avoiding airborne allergens is difficult, there are a few measures you can take to minimize your exposure. One way to avoid contact is to perform outdoor chores such as lawn mowing or anything else that stirs up pollen in your plants.
Warm, windy days spread the most pollen in the air, so keeping windows and doors closed reduces your exposure. In the spring or summer, a good time to go outside is after a rain, as the rain clears the air of pollen.
On warm, windy days, you must go outside, change, and quickly wash your clothes upon your return. Avoid air-drying laundry during allergy season, as both clothing and bed linens can introduce allergens into your home. Consider air filtration systems for the spring and summer months if you are extremely sensitive.