While every season hosts its own set of allergy concerns, springtime is probably the most notorious sinus offender. One of the reasons for this stems from how spring allergens tend to sneak up on people. For instance, if you’re planning on waiting until everything’s in bloom to start preparing for allergies, you may be too late.
"We tend to associate the beginning of allergy season with flowering trees and plants. Truth is, allergy season begins much earlier, when buds on otherwise bare trees begin releasing their pollen," said B.J. Lanser, MD, pediatric allergist and immunologist at National Jewish Health.
Tree pollen is the most prevalent allergen during the spring. So if you want to be able to enjoy the season, preparing sooner is crucial.
Spring allergies can cause a runny nose, along with watery and itchy eyes, sneezing, and sore throats. Prevent these symptoms by taking allergy medicine before symptoms start and by using these tips to keep spring allergy symptoms under control.
Know exactly what triggers your allergies
See an allergist and have testing done to determine which pollens or other items (molds, pets, etc.) cause you to have an allergic reaction. Specifically knowing what you are allergic to can help your allergist tailor your treatment plan.
Start your allergy medications now
Whether you use nasal sprays or oral medications, begin taking your allergy medications one to two weeks before the pollen season begins. Beginning those medications early can help lessen the severity of your symptoms later. Without taking medication prior to exposure, symptoms can worsen throughout the season. This can put a damper on your fun when summer approaches.
Take your allergy medications as prescribed. Your medications will work much better when they are used consistently, instead of just being applied for urgent relief. If you have questions about taking medication while traveling or engaging in a specific activity, talk to your doctor.
Monitor pollen counts
Know the pollen counts each day. On high pollen count days, keep your windows closed in the car and house to minimize exposure to pollens. Use air conditioning on the recirculate setting instead of a window or attic fan to cool your house. Wear a scarf or mask over your mouth and nose to prevent breathing in pollen and dust on windy days. Wear an allergy mask outdoors to reduce exposure to allergens. Stay inside during afternoons and evenings when pollen counts are highest. If you’re especially prone to allergic reactions or asthma attacks, it’s a good idea to review the Air Quality Index.
When you come in from outside, remove clothing and wash or shower to remove pollen from your skin and hair. Also, wash your pets after they’ve been outside to reduce pollen they bring into the home.
When possible, avoid humidifiers and swamp coolers, as they can contribute molds to your home. If you need to use a humidifier, make sure to follow proper care and maintenance guidelines.
Consider using a nasal wash
Many people with allergic rhinitis, allergic asthma, or other lung problems also have nasal and sinus symptoms. Drainage from your nose and sinuses can make rhinitis and asthma worse, especially at night. A salt-water nasal wash, or nasal irrigation, can help reduce these symptoms. View nasal wash guidelines.
If you or anyone you know experiences springtime allergies, a National Jewish Health allergist can help. Learn more about our allergy program or make an appointment today.
This information has been approved by BJ Lanser, MD (February 2023).