Spring Allergy Forecast: Prepare for a Harsh Season

Over the past few decades, the United States has experienced a notable trend: spring is arriving earlier.

The USA National Phenology Network, which tracks seasonal changes in plants, reports that, on average, the start of spring has occurred earlier in the contiguous United States since 1984.

This year is no exception, with springtime activity beginning up to three weeks ahead of schedule in some regions.

While an early spring may seem like a welcome change after a long winter, it has significant implications for allergy sufferers. As temperatures warm earlier, plants begin to release pollen sooner and in greater quantities. A study found that between 1990 and 2018, total pollen amounts increased by up to 21% nationwide, with the greatest increases in Texas and the Midwest.

Longer, More Intense Pollen Seasons

In addition to starting earlier, pollen seasons are also lasting longer. With more frost-free days and warmer seasonal temperatures, plants have an extended window to release pollen. This means that allergy sufferers may experience symptoms for a more prolonged period, with little relief in sight.

Rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere tend to stimulate plant growth and pollen production. As CO2 concentrations continue to increase due to human activities, we can expect to see even higher pollen counts in the future.

Preparing for the Season Ahead

With the spring allergy season poised to be particularly harsh this year, it’s essential to take proactive steps to manage your symptoms:

Start medications early: If you have a history of spring allergies, don’t wait until your symptoms are in full force to begin treatment. Start taking your medications, such as antihistamines or nasal corticosteroids, a few weeks before you typically experience symptoms.
Monitor pollen counts: Keep an eye on local pollen forecasts and try to limit your outdoor activities on high pollen days. Pollen counts are generally highest in the morning and on dry, windy days.
Keep indoor air clean: Use air conditioning and keep windows closed to minimize pollen entering your home. Consider using a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter to remove pollen and other allergens from the air.
Wash away pollen: After spending time outdoors, take a shower and change your clothes to avoid spreading pollen throughout your home. Wash your bedding frequently to remove accumulated pollen.
Consult with an allergist: If your symptoms are severe or difficult to manage, consider seeing an allergist. They can help identify your specific allergens and develop a personalized treatment plan.

By understanding the trends in pollen seasons and taking proactive steps to manage symptoms, we can better navigate the challenges of a changing environment and protect our health in the face of an increasingly harsh allergy season.