Spring Allergy Outlook
What to Expect?
If things are bad in your part of the country in March, will they get worse? That’s hard to say.
“Predicting pollen is like predicting the weather,” Jacobson says. “There’s a lot of variability, and you can have sudden changes.”
There’s also a lot of variety when it comes to pollen providers. Some trees pollinate for a couple of weeks in early spring, while others pollinate a little later. Grass pollen follows tree pollen in April, May, and June. Ragweed and other weed pollens come next, to ruin late summer and early autumn.
Cold or Allergy?
It’s easy to confuse allergy symptoms with those of a cold, says Luz M. Fonacier, MD, chief allergist at Winthrop-University Hospital in Mineola, NY. Just look at the symptoms:
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Postnasal drip
- Itchiness in the nose and throat
- Swollen, watery, itchy eyes
How do you know the difference? If your symptoms don’t clear up in a week or so, it’s likely your stuffy nose and sneezing can be traced to allergies, Fonacier says. At that point, she recommends seeing an allergist to find out just what you’re allergic to. And if you have severe allergies, pollen can trigger asthma attacks.
“Once you know what it is, you can avoid it, and avoidance is the most important thing,” she says.
Here are Fonacier’s tips for periods of high pollen:
- Stay indoors as much as possible.
- Don’t mow the lawn or do other outdoor work.
- If you have to go out, take a shower when you come back in.
- Wear a mask when you have to be outside.
Over-the-counter and prescription medicines can be used to relieve your symptoms. But, Fonacier says, it’s important to start taking those medications before allergy season begins.
“You’re better off preventing the symptoms from coming than trying to take care of them once they’re already there,” she says. “Take your medication as prescribed, take it early, and take it regularly.”
Finally, you may need to consider allergy shots, which can combat the specific allergens that trouble you. At first, you’ll get increasingly potent shots once or twice a week. Once you reach an effective dose, you can expect shots every 2 to 4 weeks.