You know it almost springs when your nose starts to itch and you sneeze more often than usual. That’s because, in addition to the beautiful sunshine and longer days, spring also brings a host of irritating allergens that wreak havoc on many people: tree pollen. If you tend to get red, itchy eyes and swollen nasal passages whenever the trees begin to bloom, you probably have seasonal allergies (also known as “hay fever”). But how much your allergies impact you this year is largely dependent on where you live. Each year, the Allergenic Quality of Life Index produces a ranking of cities based on their peak allergy season. While some cities see high levels of tree pollen year-round, others have peak seasons that last just a few weeks.
What do spring allergy symptoms feel like?
If you’re experiencing the symptoms of spring allergies, you’ll probably know it. Symptoms typically begin with itchy eyes and a runny nose, followed by sneezing and general congestion. People with allergies may also experience higher-than-average ear infections in children, due to the build-up of fluid in the Eustachian tubes.
You may also notice more frequent headaches, scratchy throat, and shortness of breath, particularly if you have asthma. And, of course, allergies are notorious for causing “puffy eyes” due to the swelling under the eyes that are caused by an excess of fluid. Allergies can also contribute to skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis. Eczema occurs when your immune system becomes hypersensitive, causing a reaction that inflames the skin. And psoriasis occurs when skin cells grow at a rapid rate, leading to thick, scaly patches on the scalp, elbows, knees, and the palms of the hands.
What are the most common spring allergens?
Tree pollen is the most common spring allergen, but there are many others to worry about, including grass, weeds, mold, and dust mites.
- Tree pollen – In spring, tree pollen is normally at its peak, causing allergies for about 40% of people. You can expect the highest tree pollen levels in the Northeast, Midwest, and Southwest.
- Grass pollen – As the weather warms up, people suffering from hay fever may also experience increased symptoms from grass pollen. Grass pollen is at its highest in the Northern Plains, the Northeast, and the Pacific Northwest.
- Weed pollen – While pollen from weeds, such as ragweed, typically peaks in August and September, it can be found as early as April. This is especially true in areas where summers are extremely hot and humid. Mold spores – These spores are common all year round, with increases during rainy seasons. They are highest in the South, Southeast, and Pacific Northwest.
- Dust mites – These tiny creatures thrive in warm, humid environments, which makes the Southeast a prime location.
How to manage allergies at home?
- Stay indoors during the pollen season. Pollen counts are especially high in the morning, so try to get all your outdoor activities done before 10 a.m.
- Keep your windows closed. This will help prevent outside allergens from entering your home.
- Cover your mattress with a protective cover. These can help trap allergens and keep them from getting inside your bed.
- Keep pets out of your bedroom. Pets often shed lots of allergens, so keeping them out of the bedroom will help reduce your symptoms.
- Wash your sheets, blankets, and clothing in hot water. High temperatures can help kill dust mites and other allergens.
- Use an air purifier. If you want an added boost, you can use an air purifier to clean the air in your home.
When does spring allergy season start?
While some cities have consistent allergy seasons, others see them shift each year. Trees, for example, produce more pollen in the spring and summer, while ragweed and grass pollen can be found throughout the year. If you don’t know where you fall, you can check the Allergenic Quality of Life Index to find out when your allergies are likely to start. The index takes into account weather patterns, pollen levels, and the number of allergy sufferers in each city, and produces a ranking based on the expected severity of the allergy season.
Get allergy shots.
Allergy shots are a great way to get through allergy season. They’re a type of immunotherapy treatment that uses small doses of allergens to “train” your immune system not to overreact to them. This immunotherapy works by exposing people with allergies to very low doses of the allergens that trigger their symptoms. Over time, the body will produce less of the antibodies that cause the symptoms. The best time to start allergy shots is in the fall, while they’re still in the midst of allergy season, but before the pollen begins to die down. This will allow you to build up a tolerance before the allergy season is in full swing. In the meantime, try to keep your home as clean as possible to prevent allergens from building up.