Allergy season is in full swing. This can differ depend on where you live, but in general it refers to the time between early spring and late fall when different trees, grasses and weeds release pollen into the air.
Unfortunately, allergy season is now getting longer and worse, according to a new report released this month by Climate Central. Climate change is prompting plants to leaf and bloom earlier in many areas of the country, producing a longer and overall more intense period for those who deal with seasonal allergies to pollen and mold.
Climate Central examined growing seasons in the U.S. beginning in 1970, finding that the time between first and last freezes has lengthened an average of 15 days and by at least a month in 31 cities. Reno, Nevada, had one of the longest extensions, with an increase of 99 days. (See how your city stacks up among other “allergy capitals,” according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.)
“There have been several studies supporting that allergy seasons have now run longer with more intense and higher pollen counts due to climate change,” said Dr. Shuba Iyngar, co-founder and chief medical officer at Allermi. “The rising temperatures have resulted in changes to the pollination patterns, causing more intense as well as longer symptoms for people who suffer from pollen allergies.”
Some people experience itchy eyes while others might have to deal with a pesky runny nose or other frustrating symptoms. We spoke with two allergists about how to prepare for allergy season and what to look out for.
How do you know if you have seasonal allergies?
As with many common illnesses, symptoms can vary, but there are a few that are more prevalent.
“The most common symptoms that people have when they have seasonal allergies include nasal congestion, itchy eyes, itchy nose, runny nose,”Iyengar said.
She said people may also experience more frequent sinus infections and problems with snoring at night as a result of seasonal allergies.
Another lesser-known indication of seasonal allergies can be symptoms of asthma.
“People do not realize asthma is commonly triggered by seasonal allergies,” said Dr. Purvi Parikh, an allergist and immunologist with the Allergy & Asthma Network. “Do not take breathing symptoms like coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath lightly.”
How can you prepare for allergy season?
For those with seasonal allergies, side effects of the pollen count and other irritants are pretty inevitable. However, Iyengar suggested a few preventative measures, including shutting bedroom windows to prevent pollen from coming in at night, frequently showering to get pollen off your body and taking your shoes off at the door to prevent tracking pollen into the home.
You may already have allergy medicine in the cabinet to take when symptoms arise, but Parikh recommended taking preventative allergy and asthma medications early. “Now is the ideal time to manage it easier, before symptoms get bad, rather than after.”
What’s the best treatment for seasonal allergies?
This best treatment option depends on the type of seasonal allergies you’re dealing with. However, Iyngar echoed something other allergy specialists have told HuffPost before: Nasal sprays are generally more effective for treating seasonal allergies.
“The best medications for treating environmental allergies are nasal sprays,” Iyengar said. “Most over-the-counter antihistamines make a person feel less itchy, but they do not prevent the actual problem from occurring. Nasal sprays work better because they go directly to the inside of the nose, which is where the inflammation occurs.”