Allergy season is in full swing. If you suffer this time of year, you are not alone. Dr. Ryan Steele of Yale School of Medicine shares his allergy season predictions and tips for managing symptoms.
Seasonal allergies are due to pollen and mold spores in the air. Although people may think of pollen as coming from flowers like roses where insects help in pollination, it’s the pollen spread by wind that gives us most of the typical allergy symptoms like nasal congestion and itchy watery eyes.
Plants usually have a period of pollination that remains fairly stable from year to year, but the amount of pollen can be influenced by the weather. Spring is when we see tree pollen, and the spring to summer transition is when grass pollen often becomes a problem. Finally in late summer to fall is when the weeds come out. In warmer climates, we can even see year round pollination. Other allergens such as molds can have some seasonal variations as well starting to increase in concentration in the warmer weather and often peaking July-October while is warmer parts of the country they can be year round.
When trying to predict what may make a bad allergy season, experts have two things to think about. The first is a pollen forecast which uses information about past pollen seasons and weather forecasts to try and predict what we can expect for the coming season. The second thing experts look at is the pollen count which is a real-time tracker of current regional pollen conditions. This will tell us what we can expect on any given day. Cloudy, rainy, and windless days tend to be better for allergy symptoms than hot, dry and windy days. A great tool to keep on your computer desktop or smart phone is a pollen counter, available on the app store for your phone.
The first step to minimizing allergy symptoms is to find out what you are allergic to, so that a treatment plan may be tailored to best fit your needs. This can be done by seeing an allergist who will not only talk to you about your allergic history but will often evaluate your potential allergens through skin testing or bloodwork. Treatment can range from some simple changes to your daily routine to medications and sometimes allergy shots. Some non-medication measures you can take include keeping the windows closed in your home and car, using the air conditioning when available as it cleans and cools the air, avoid going outside when pollen counts are high, and when you come in from the outside take off any hats/jackets/shoes you are wearing and shower before you go to sleep to wash off all those outdoor pollens.
For long-term relief, allergy shots, are a kind of vaccine for your allergens that are usually administered at your allergist’s office.