Sneezing, sniffling, and coughing, oh my! If you feel like your allergy symptoms get worse year after year, you’re not alone. And you’re not wrong, either!
It’s actually been proven that the spring allergy season has been getting longer and more severe over the past few years. But why? And is this trend expected to continue?
Florida Medical Clinic allergy and asthma specialist Dr. Daniel Reichmuth wants patients to be prepared for this upcoming spring allergy season. That’s why we’ve also included some tips you can use to keep your symptoms under control all season long.
Reasons for Worsening Allergies
There are actually a few different reasons for your spring allergy woes.
For starters, depending on where you live, you may face a more severe allergy than others. States like Texas, Massachusetts, Kentucky, and even Florida have historically high pollen counts. If you’ve moved in the last year, you might want to take that into consideration as well. You can find the AAFA’s complete ranking of the worst cities for allergy sufferers here.
But if you haven’t made any major geographic changes in the last few years, then what gives? It turns out that your worsening spring allergies are part of a much bigger problem – climate change.
Why Climate Change is Making You Sneeze More
Spring allergies in Florida are mostly caused by tree pollen from a variety of species, including oak, bayberry, cedar, cypress, Australian pine and many others. On warm, dry days, these species release pollen to fertilize other trees and reproduce. Unfortunately for allergy sufferers, this natural process is being intensified year after year by climate change.
Climate change refers to the long-term rise in average temperatures across the globe caused by an increase in greenhouse gas emissions. But what do warmer temperatures have to do with spring allergies?
Quite a lot, actually. In a phenomenon known as “season creep”, climate change is causing winter to become shorter and spring to arrive earlier. These shifting seasons cause pollen season to start earlier and last longer each year.
Rising temperatures aren’t the only way that climate change is contributing to your allergy woes. Increased human emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) from cars, factories, and power plants also play a role. Carbon dioxide encourages pollen production in plants.
The bottom line? The more CO2 in the atmosphere, the more pollen we have to deal with.
How Air Pollution Makes Things Worse
Increased air pollution is also to blame for your worsening spring allergies. You might think that you’re safe from pollen allergies in a big city without many trees, but that’s simply not the case.
Common pollutants like ozone and sulfur dioxide, which are produced by vehicles and industrial plants, can irritate the airways and make it easier for pollen grains to penetrate the body.
Spring Allergy Solutions to Try at Home
If pollen is an allergy trigger for you, the best thing that you can do is avoid it. Of course, that’s a lot easier said than done – whether you live in a rural town or a major city, you’re going to come into contact with pollen every time you step outside.
While you can’t escape outdoor allergens, you can take steps to keep them out of your home and reduce your exposure.
Start by keeping track of pollen counts. Check your local weather station or a trusted national source like AAAAI before you plan your day, then take the following precautions:
- Keep your doors and windows closed when pollen counts are high.
- Set car and home air conditioning systems to recirculate indoor air.
- During allergy season, wash your bedding and vacuum carpets more frequently to remove any lingering pollen.
- Change your clothing and/or shower after spending a lot of time outdoors.
- Dry clothes in a drying machine instead of hanging them up outdoors on a line or rack.
- Take your shoes off at the door to avoid tracking pollen into your home.
- Do most of your outdoor activities in the morning and evening, as pollen counts tend to peak around midday.
Choosing the Right Allergy Medication
Allergy medications can greatly reduce your symptoms, but what medications should you be taking?
The answer depends on the severity of your symptoms and to what exactly you’re allergic, says allergy and asthma specialist Dr. Reichmuth.
For mild seasonal allergies, over the counter medications usually do the trick. But if you feel like your allergies are getting worse year after year and your usual OTC medications are losing their effectiveness, it might be time to see an allergist.
An allergist can help you create an effective allergy management plan based on your symptoms and how long they last.
Understand the Risks
Another reason to tackle pollen season with the help of an allergist? Self-medicating, doctors warn, can be risky for certain people. Older adults and people with high blood pressure, heart problems, or asthma should talk with their doctor before taking an allergy medication to reduce the risk of adverse side effects.
When to Start Taking an Allergy Medication
Allergies can make you feel just as badly as if you had a nasty cold. Don’t wait until you start experiencing symptoms to take medication, especially with allergy season coming earlier and earlier each year.
Certain nasal sprays such as nasal steroids may take days or even weeks to start working. Other medications, such as Afrin, shouldn’t be used for more than a few days at a time – read over the counter labels carefully and, as always, consult an allergist if you’re ever unsure.
Unfortunately, as long as global temperatures are predicted to rise, spring allergy season is only going to get worse. But by taking a proactive approach to treatment, you’ll be able to keep your worst symptoms at bay.
Looking for an allergist in the Tampa Bay area? Dr. Daniel Reichmuth helps patients in Land O’ Lakes, Zephyrhills, Wiregrass, and the surrounding areas manage their seasonal allergies, as well as chronic year-round allergies, food allergies, and insect allergies. Request an appointment with Dr. Reichmuth at Florida Medical Clinic today to find a solution for your most stubborn symptoms.
Disclaimer: This blog is not intended to substitute professional medical advice. Always talk with your doctor before starting or stopping medications.