Common Seasonal Allergy Triggers
If you sneeze and cough during certain times of the year, you may have seasonal allergies. However, occasional allergies arent something you just have to live with.
In many areas of the United States, spring allergies begin in February and last until the early summer. Tree pollination begins earliest in the year followed by grass pollination later in the spring and summer and ragweed in the late summer and fall. In tropical climates, however, grass may pollinate throughout a good portion of the year. Mild winter temperatures can cause plants to pollinate early. A rainy spring can also promote rapid plant growth and lead to an increase in mold, causing symptoms to last well into the fall.
The most common culprit for fall allergies is ragweed, a plant that grows wild almost everywhere, but especially on the East Coast and in the Midwest. Ragweed blooms and releases pollen from August to November. In many areas of the country, ragweed pollen levels are highest in early to mid-September.
Other plants that trigger fall allergies include:
- Burning bush
- Sagebrush and mugwort
- Tumbleweed and Russian thistle
While the timing and severity of an allergy season vary across the country, the following climate factors also can influence how bad your symptoms might be:
Find expert care with an Allergist.
An allergist can pinpoint the cause and help you find relief.
Climate Change Linked To Longer Allergy Season In Bay Area Stanford Study Finds
Air levels of pollen and mold spores in the San Francisco Bay Area are elevated for about two more months per year than in past decades, and higher temperatures are to blame, a Stanford Medicine study has found.
Stanford researchers have found that changes in temperature and rainfall have lengthened allergy season in the Bay Area.Elizaveta Galitckaia/Shutterstock
Bay Area allergy sufferers take note: Climate change has lengthened the local pollen and mold season by eight to nine weeks per year during the past two decades, according to a study from the Stanford University School of Medicine.
The study, based on allergen data collected starting in 2002 in Los Altos Hills, California, found that local temperature increases are linked to longer tree and grass pollen seasons, while changes in local precipitation are linked to more mold spores in the air. Tree pollen and mold seasons each grew by about half a week per year from 2002 through 2019, the study found. The research, the first to analyze the effects of climate change on airborne allergens in the San Francisco Bay Area, was published online June 17 in the journal Scientific Reports.
As an allergist, it is my duty to follow the pollen counts, and I was noticing that the start date of the tree pollen season was earlier every year, she said. My patients were complaining, and I would say, This is such a tough year, but then I thought, wait, Im saying that every year.
Is It An Allergy Or Covid
When COVID-19 and seasonal allergies are circulating at the same time, every sniffle can lead you to worry that you might have the virus. From the perspective of a parent, one of the biggest issues is when kids in school have allergy symptoms that are poorly controlled, and then the school system sends them home or says they need a physicians note, Dr. Leeds says.
The CDC has a Venn diagram that shows symptoms the two conditions have in common. These include congestion, cough, difficulty breathing, fatigue, runny nose, sore throat, and shortness of breath. But comparing the most common symptoms reveals clear differences. Seasonal allergies usually cause itchy or watery eyes and sneezing, while COVID-19 is characterized by fever and chills, muscle and body aches, new loss of taste and smell, nausea and vomiting, and diarrhea.
Because of COVID-19, people are afraid of you when youre sniffling, says Dr. Hsu. But it goes both waysa lot of people are sniffling and sneezing and coughing, and they are not getting tested for COVID-19, because they assume its allergies. And they are probably correct.
Often the distinction is clearpeople with allergies itch more, and they dont have the fatigue, malaise, and fever that comes with COVID-19. But anyone who is concerned should call their doctor, she says.
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When To Contact A Doctor
Most seasonal allergy symptoms are mild and treatable with over-the-counter medications, while other symptoms may not require any treatment. Contact a doctor if you experience any of the following:
- Chronic sinus infections, congestion, or difficulty breathing
- Symptoms of allergies several months out of the year
- Undesirable side effects or no symptom improvement from over-the-counter seasonal allergy medicine
- Asthma or allergies inhibit day-to-day activities or quality of life
- Warning signs of serious asthma attacks such as difficulty breathing, wheezing or coughing, or tightness in the chest
Medicine for allergy relief can cause side effects and complications when combined with other drugs. Talking to a doctor before taking over-the-counter medications wont hurt they may be able to help you choose what medication is best for you. It is particularly important to contact a doctor before using allergy medicine if:
- You are pregnant or breast-feeding
- You have chronic health conditions such as glaucoma, diabetes, osteoporosis, or high blood pressure
- You are currently taking other medications
- You are treating allergies in a child
- You are treating allergies in elderly patients
- Your current allergy medicine is not working
A visit with a doctor or allergist might include:
- Allergy testing
- Immunotherapy, which is a treatment that periodically injects allergens with the goal of desensitizing the body, resulting in allergy relief
How Climate Change Is Making Allergy Season Even Worse
If you think this pollen season is bad, brace yourself.
Why climate change threatens public health
No, your eyes are not deceiving you — allergy season is getting worse, and climate change is to blame.
Pollen counts are already higher than they’ve ever been, and not only will they increase, but the season will get longer as well, experts say.
Dr. Shahnaz Fatteh, an allergist and medical director of Asthma Allergy Care Center of Florida, has been seeing increases of both adult and pediatric patients in recent years, describing the effects of pollen as a “significant burden on health.”
“I have been watching the pollen increase over the past decade,” she said. “We see it in patient care.”
About 40% of children and 30% of adults in the U.S. suffer from seasonal allergies, Fatteh said, describing patients who in the past experienced mild symptoms and are now complaining of more intense symptoms that they are suffering from longer.
The symptoms include sniffling, congestion and post nasal drip, which can then lead to cough, any type of viral exposure, sinus infections and ear infections, Fatteh said.
“It does affect people more than just sneezing and itching,” she said, noting the economic burden as well as people take sick days to care for themselves or their children.
In addition, there is 20% more pollen in the air right now than there was in the 1990s, Anderegg said. By 2040, pollen counts are expected to double from what they were in 2000, Fatteh added.
General Tips And Advice For Airborne Seasonal Allergies
The mainstay of the management of allergy, to reiterate, is AVOIDANCE of provokers of allergy. Medications, whether preventive or curative, are the second line of management.
Sufferers of allergy due to airborne allergens are also advised to closely follow weather reports . Weather forecasts give information about expected temperatures, humidity, cloud cover and in some cases, windspeed and even pollen counts. Weather forecasts are now widely available on the internet, TV, radio and newspapers.
The living environment should be cleared of known or suspected offending agents as best as possible. But it must be known that some airborne allergens such as grass pollens can still trouble an allergy sufferer even if they are cleared in the vicinity. This is because wind can carry this allergens from sources as far as 12 km away!
Pollen counts are highest in the early morning to mid-morning hours. It is therefore best to avoid at all costs, being out in the open during these hours. Otherwise an allergic person would need to take extra protective measures such as medication.
Pollen counts are generally lowest at night. So where personal physical safety is not an issue, this is the safest time to venture outside during peak allergy season. Leaving doors and windows open at night is not advisable though, as dust and pollen can enter and settle in the house.
Allergy sufferers must always cover their noses and mouths when sweeping, dusting or vacuuming houses.
Can You Tell Us About The American Lung Associations Mission
The American Lung Association is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease. Our work is focused on four strategic imperatives: to defeat lung cancer champion clean air for all improve the quality of life for those with lung disease and their families and create a tobacco-free future. Whether its searching for cures to lung diseases, keeping kids off tobacco, or advocating for laws that protect the air we breathe, the work of the American Lung Association helps to save lives every day.
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How Did Aprilaire And The American Lung Association Come To Work Together In The First Place What Does That Relationship Look Like Presently
Aprilaire and the American Lung Association forged a new relationship in 2018. We quickly realized how much we had in common. Our partnership was developed as we saw an opportunity to educate and help more consumers improve the air in their homes to create a healthier environment.
Since 2020, Aprilaire has been a Proud Partner of the Lung Association with its 4 residential air filters. Additionally, Aprilaire joined the Lung Association as our FY20 National Fight For Air Climb Partner For Healthy Air. The company has also supported the Lung Associations Stand Up For Clean Air campaign. As part of this initiative, we are driving conversations around air quality, climate, and health. The Lung Association invited people to share their #MyCleanAirStoryknowing that when people realize climate and air quality are impacting the health of their neighbors, friends, and loved onesthey are more willing to act. Aprilaire provided prizes for the #MyCleanAirStory contest, including one grand prize of a whole-home Indoor Air Quality upgrade and nine Aprilaire Room Air Purifiers. This year, the company stepped up once again to sponsor the Wisconsin Fight For Air Climb in Milwaukee. Also in 2021, the Lung Association welcomed Dale Philippi, President and CEO of Research Products Corporation, Aprilaires parent company, to the Lung Associations Wisconsin Leadership Board of Directors.
Are Seasonal Allergies Bad This Year
Its not your imagination: The allergy season of 2021 has been brutal. So were the past few years. In fact, a 2020 University of Wisconsin study indicated allergy season has been getting longer and stronger for the past 30 years.
Scientists blame climate change. Rising temperatures mean fewer days of frost in the spring. Plants bloom earlier, which results in more pollen in the air, which in turn means more intense allergy seasons.
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Can You Develop Seasonal Allergies As An Adult
You can develop seasonal allergies at any time in your life, including adulthood. You can even become allergic to something youve never been allergic to before.
Its not always clear why some adults develop new allergies. Some reasons for adult-onset seasonal allergies could be:
- Reduced immune function. If youre sick, pregnant, or immunocompromised, you might be more susceptible to allergens.
- Moving to a new area of the country. You might be around trees or other plants you havent encountered before.
- Having greater exposure to allergens. A small amount of pollen may not bother you. But concentrated exposure could trigger an allergic reaction.
What Is An Allergic Reaction
Allergic or hypersensitive reaction is excessive sensitivity exhibited by your immune system to a conventionally harmless substance such as pollen, dust and certain foods. These substances are not dangerous in the majority of the people, but when they trigger allergic reactions, they are called allergens. Allergic reactions occur when the allergens contact the skin, are inhaled, swallowed or injected.
Allergic reactions are quite common and may happen seconds to hours after contact with the allergen. Though many allergic reactions are mild, others may be dangerous or life-threatening. They may be localized, involving a small part of the body or may affect a large area orthe whole body.
An allergic reaction begins with touching, inhaling or swallowing an allergen. In response to this trigger, the body starts making a type of protein called IgE or immunoglobulin E. IgE leads to the release of some chemicals in the body. These chemicals cause the inflammatory symptoms of allergic reactions such as rash, itching and sneezing.
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How To Alleviate Your Allergy Symptoms
Leeds recommended wearing a brimmed hat and sunglasses to keep pollen out of your eyes and nose. A solid rinse can also work wonders after spending time outside.
Wash your hands and face after being outdoors for long periods of time, and consider changing your clothes, she said.
If you are particularly sensitive, limit your time outdoors on poor air-quality days. Consider washing your eyes and nose with a saline solution. You might also want to swap out your contact lenses for eyeglasses, as pollen can cling onto lenses and irritate the eye. Cleaning your lenses more frequently and opting for daily disposable contacts can also help relieve itchy, watery eyes.
Pollen can get trapped inside your home, so keep your windows shut and car doors closed. Vacuum often to get rid of allergens trapped in your carpet. If you have AC, set it to nonrecirculated air.
AAFA also recommends using a HEPA air filter to purify the air in your house. And pets can be pollen magnets, so giving them a good rub down is a good idea after a springtime walk, Gupta said.
You might also want to hold onto your face mask a bit longer. The masks we use to protect ourselves against the coronavirus act as a barrier against pollen, too. The better the mask, the better the protection.
N95 masks are ideal for this, but standard masks most people are using to protect one another from COVID-19 also work, Mendez said.
Allergy Season : Why Your Symptoms Are Worse Than Ever
Many people with seasonal allergies are struggling right now, trapped in a vicious cycle of coughing, sneezing, wheezing and itching.
If this sounds like you, you might be wondering whats going on. Is this allergy season particularly brutal, or do your symptoms just seem worse because you were inside and not exposed to many allergens in spring 2020? Or is it all in your head?
According to allergists, its not just you. Its true your allergies may feel worse this year. Heres the deal and how to find some relief:
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When Will Allergy Season Peak In 2021 An Allergy Forecast
Spring is creeping up fast in the United States, and that means warmer weather is on the horizon after a rough winter in some regions, but for those who suffer from seasonal allergies, there may only be a few weeks left in some parts of the country before allergens begin to kick into full gear. And one part of the nation is already beginning to feel the effects of the spring pollen season.
New research from Germany suggests that climate change is now causing allergy season to last longer, as rising temperatures are causing plants to bloom earlier, and pollen from early-blooming locations are traveling into later-blooming locations, UPI recently reported.
AccuWeather meteorologists, led by Senior Meteorologist Alan Reppert, released their annual spring allergy forecast this week, after digging into the data and exploring which areas of the country may experience an early or extended season as well as which areas could face higher-than-usual pollen counts.
Simply put, different allergens will begin to affect Americans at different points in the season, depending on the region and the weather conditions. AccuWeather forecasters have you covered on where in the U.S. allergy sufferers may need to stock up on tissues — and keep the windows closed at times this upcoming season.
Tree pollen forecast
The Southeast is already beginning to experience the first effects of allergy season. Trees around the Gulf Coast in particular, Reppert said, have begun releasing pollen.
What Can You Do
Unless you’re prepared to settle down in a bunker, there’s no way to avoid the weather. But you can work around it and reduce your allergy symptoms.
- Pay attention to the weather. Check local pollen and mold counts. Watch for Ozone Action Days. Spend less time outside when you’re likely to have problems.
- Prepare for allergies. If you have the same allergy at the same time every year — ragweed in the fall or tree pollen in the spring — get ahead of it. Ask your doctor if you can start taking allergy drugs about 2 weeks before you usually start sneezing, coughing, or itching. That way, you can stop them before they start.
- Control your environment. You can’t change what’s happening outside, but you do have some control over conditions in your house. Use air conditioning to filter out mold and pollen. Use a dehumidifier to ward off mold growth and dust mites.
- Get the right diagnosis. Donât just guess whatâs causing your allergies. See your doctor to have an allergy skin test, which can show you exactly what triggers your symptoms. When you get the results, you might consider asking about immunotherapy, such as allergy shots or tablets that go under your tongue. They can help keep your allergies under control no matter what the weather or the season.
American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology: “Pollen ” “Outdoor Allergens: Tips to Remember ” “Ragweed Allergy ” and “Dust Allergy Management.”
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