Stormy Weather: Bad News for Allergy Sufferers?

Why storms can cause mixed bag of symptoms
rain on window looking out on to meadow of flowers

Cool summer rains can be a welcome respite from sweltering temperatures. But for allergy sufferers, summer storms can equal good news or bad news.

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“Light or moderate rains can actually wash the pollens out of the air,” says allergy specialist Sandra Hong, MD. “But heavy rains can cause pollens to burst open, making allergy sufferers experience more symptoms.”

The relationship between storms and allergies isn’t just anecdotal. Dr. Hong says research has documented that connection. “Multiple studies relating thunderstorms and asthma epidemics have implicated rise in allergen content, both fungal spores and pollen, in the air,” she says.

Storms that kick up wind also get the pollens moving through the air, so Dr. Hong’s advice during storms is to take the same allergy precautions that you would on any other high pollen-count day.

What to do if pollen counts are high

Stay indoors with windows closed. This lowers your exposure to outdoor pollen and avoids allowing it to come into your home.

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Use air conditioning. If you have a window air conditioning unit, make sure it is recirculating the air, not venting it from the outside.

A rainy summer

In some parts of the country, this summer has been an unusually rainy one. While that might be great for a gardener’s roses, Dr. Hong says it’s also feeding ragweed that might otherwise be wilting under the brutal August sun.

“This year has been more miserable than normal because of all the rain,” Dr. Hong says. “It’s watering the weeds and leading to more mold growth outdoors.”

Any indoor flooding should be dried and disinfected immediately to prevent or remove indoor mold, Dr. Hong says.

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The changes in barometric pressure that precede storms can often create headaches and sinus pressure, she says, a sign that allergy-provoking pollen is on its way.

Move to escape allergies?

If you’re thinking you can move to drier parts of the country to escape summer allergies, think again.

“You could go someplace like the North Pole or the desert where they don’t have growing plants,” says Dr. Hong with a laugh. “But in dry climates that have brought in grass, trees and watering plants, you still won’t be able to escape your seasonal allergies.”

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