How to be Prepared and Deal for Allergy Season

Itching for relief.

How to spring ahead of allergy symptoms.

Spring will soon be in bloom, along with a fresh crop of allergy and asthma symptoms. If it feels like your sneezing and sniffles seem to drag on longer every year, it’s not just in your head. Emerging research suggests that a longer growing season may be the root cause of higher pollen levels. That, they say, is the perfect storm for more seasonal allergy and asthma suffering.1

 You or somebody you know probably deals with (and dreads) the irritating symptoms that arrive with allergy season. The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) reports that 40 to 60 million Americans have seasonal allergies, also known as hay fever or allergic rhinitis.2 And that number appears to be on the rise. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 19.2 million U.S. adults were diagnosed with allergic rhinitis in 2018 alone.3 That’s up from 17.9 million diagnoses in 2009.4

Asthma, which often goes hand-in-hand with seasonal allergies, affects more than 25 million Americans.5 Often, the same triggers for seasonal allergies can also cause asthma to flare up.6

The spread of pollen season:7

Some of the most common culprits of allergic reactions include pollen from ragweed, grass, birch and oak trees.8 Starting in the spring and continuing into fall, these plants and trees bloom, releasing tiny grains of pollen that float through the air and invade the body. The presence of pollen can trigger a chemical reaction as a means of protection. That’s where the runny nose, sneezing, itchy eyes and coughing come into play. In more severe cases, seasonal allergies can cause fatigue and irritability that can negatively impact your quality of life.2

But the good news is, you can fight back by being proactive. Experts say the sooner you take action against allergens, the better. That starts with knowing when allergy season begins. It can be tricky to determine an exact date because it varies by region. Allergy season is a rolling wave that can start as early as January in southern states and spread north as frost-free days take over.9 One helpful resource is the interactive Seasonal Allergy Map on It shows daily allergy levels and pollen forecasts, state by state. With that information, you can prepare for relief before you step out the door for the day.

Take action against allergies:

Part of your defense plan can include taking allergy medication long before symptoms set in.10 It’s considered “pretreatment.” Here’s why it’s effective. Fighting back against pollen and other allergens before they strike can help you avoid or reduce symptoms.10 Some medications, like corticosteroid nasal sprays, take a few weeks to build up in your system and become fully effective.10 By taking this “pretreatment” approach, you’re blocking the allergic reaction altogether. It can also prevent symptoms from progressing into sinusitis or asthma flare-up.10

It’s also helpful to get to know your personal seasonal allergy cycle because it’s different for everyone.11 By pinpointing what causes your symptoms, and when, you can better predict and prevent allergic reactions. Greater self-awareness will also help you to zero in on which medications bring the most effective relief. Whether you use antihistamines, nasal sprays, steam or a combination of them, experts agree that consistency is the key to staying one step ahead of allergens.11

You can strengthen your defense against allergy season even more and find relief with these tips from the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA).8

  • Limit your outdoor activities when pollen counts are high. This will reduce the amount of pollen allergen you inhale to keep your symptoms in check.
  • Keep windows closed during pollen season. For extra protection, use central air conditioning with a certified asthma and allergy friendly filter attachment.
  • Start taking allergy medicine before pollen season begins. Most allergy medicines work best when taken this way because it prevents your body from releasing histamine and other chemicals that cause your symptoms.
  • Bathe and shampoo your hair daily before going to bed. This will remove pollen from your hair and skin, and keep it off your bedding.
  • Wash bedding with hot, soapy water once a week. You’ll sleep more soundly and prevent the spread of pollen throughout the house.
  • Change and wash clothes worn during outdoor activities. After washing, make sure to dry your clothes in a clothes dryer, not on an outdoor line.
  • Wear sunglasses and a hat. This will help keep pollen out of your eyes and off your hair.
  • Limit close contact with pets that spend a lot of time outdoors.

So before the trees, flowers and grasses spring back to life, find out when pollen levels might be most potent where you live. Then, take care to nip your allergy symptoms in the bud before they start so you can enjoy the outdoors, free and clear.

REFERENCES. 1. Schmidt, Charles. Pollen Overload: Seasonal Allergies in a Changing Climate: 2. Allergic Rhinitis, American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology: 3. National Center for Health Statistics: Allergies and Hay Fever, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: 4. Allergy Statistics and Facts, Healthline:  5. Asthma Facts and Figures, Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America:  6. Allergies and Asthma: They Often Occur Together, Mayo Clinic: 7. When Does Allergy Season 2020 Start--And When Should I Start Taking Medicine? Women’s Health Magazine: 8. Pollen Allergies, Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America: 9. When Is Allergy Season? WebMd: 10. The Secret To An Easier Allergy Season, Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School: 11. 7 tips to manage seasonal allergy symptoms, Tufts Medical School: All sources accessed February 10, 2020.