Get Out There

Allergy Season Is Early, But You Can Help Yourself

If you have been sneezing or had a runny nose, it’s not your imagination: allergy season has come early this year. While spring hasn’t officially begun, a mild winter kicked off allergy season sooner than usual.  

Allergy season usually starts in April. The most common symptoms are sneezing, runny eyes and noses and itchy throats. Southern states are suffering through “pollen bombs.” On a scale of one to 12, they have been sitting at 9.7! This week, 22 percent of the country has had a medium score — 7.3.  

The pollen that causes allergies are airborne,” said Dr. Alice Chou. “It started early just because the weather has been nice and so the trees started pollinating.”

OTC medications like Allegra, Claritin and Zyrtec can help. Nasal sprays like Flonase can also offer relief. If you know you will be outside for a long time, taking medication before going outdoors can be helpful. After all, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!

Offering advice to people who are struggling, Dr. Chou said, “Pretreat, take all the medication, especially the nasal sprays, and then when they go out, if they’re working in the yard, they should wear a mask. I know people are tired of masks. It would also help with allergens.”

Keeping the windows of your car and home closed helps your indoor spaces stay clean. Going out later in the afternoon enables you to avoid high pollen levels. Removing your clothes when you come home and immediately washing them can cut down on pollinators in your home.  

We do seem to see an increase in pollen counts almost every year. So the counts just keep going up and up,” said Dr. Russell Traister, an allergist with Allegheny Health Network.

He recommended checking the pollen count before leaving home. That way, you can have a forecast for your day and prepare for it the same way you would prepare for the weather.

Right now, tree pollen is the largest problem. It is expected to peak in April this year. However, allergy sufferers won’t be out of the woods. Grass and weed pollens will spread throughout the summer and fall. Depending on your allergies, you may be in for a rough ride for quite a while. But by taking precautions, you can ease your symptoms and make your life more enjoyable so you can spend time outdoors without feeling miserable.

Banner image: Tim Mossholder via Pexels

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