Why Are My Allergies so Bad This Season?

The short answer from an allergist
seed pods exploding in spring

Q: Why are my allergies worse than usual this spring? Is there something extra in the air?

A. Actually, there is extra pollen in the air this year.

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For certain parts of the Midwest, including Northeast Ohio, the allergy seasons unfold in a predictable fashion. Tree pollen season is usually at the beginning of spring in March, April, and the first half of May while the grass pollen season is typically mid-May through early-to-mid-July.

This spring, though, there was quite a bit of precipitation and unseasonably cold weather, such that there was even snow on the ground in May in some areas. So the cooler temperatures meant the trees weren’t pollinating at their usual time. Instead, that late peak got pushed back a few weeks.

Meanwhile, the usual peak of the grass pollen season is Memorial Day weekend meaning, this year, the grass and tree pollen peaks overlapped, a kind of “double hit” for those who are allergic to both.

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For management of these symptoms, the best recommendation is avoidance measures combined with regular medication. It’s important for patients to be taking medication on a regular basis every day whether they think they need it or not. Usually, we recommend that people front-end the pollen season and begin taking medication early in the season or better yet before the season starts.

It’s also important that you keep the windows in your car and home closed with the air conditioning on. This can help cut down the indoor pollen counts by 90% or more. And sleeping with the windows closed is also key because a peak for pollen release is between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m. as sunlight is a stimulus for some plants to release pollen.

— Allergist David Lang, MD

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