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What to do when allergies spring forth this season

Nick Antonini

That last patch of snow on your lawn is finally melting, the sun is out and warming your face, and the trees and flowers are coming back to life. Spring is in the air and you’re ready to start enjoying the outdoors again, but there’s one thing that’s slowing you down: allergies.

Spring allergies can irritate your eyes, nose, and throat and keep you from enjoying the no-longer-cold weather. This week on “Take Care,” Dr. Neeta Ogden tells us what can cause those unwanted allergies and how to manage them this spring. Ogden is an adult and pediatric allergist, asthma specialist, and immunologist in New York City, and is a spokesperson for the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology.

If you sometimes feel like your allergies are different some years than others, you’re not crazy. Ogden says whether the winter leading up to your allergies is warm or cold can be the source of this.

Warm winters can cause those who suffer from allergies to complain of year-round symptoms. Things that should have gone dormant with the cold weather don’t, like mold, Ogden says. Along with year-round exposure, warm winters can also cause symptoms in the spring to be more intense since plants have more time to flourish.

Cold winters on the other hand, may cause a delay in allergies, which can then make them hit you all at once.  

“It will be almost more intense because we haven’t had a wave of warmth before it,” Ogden said.

This also applies when the winter where you live is cold and you travel somewhere warm for vacation.

Although there may be many different factors that cause your spring allergies, the main culprit is pollen.

“Early spring we’re seeing tree pollen as the big allergen, and that’s basically April, early May,” Ogden said. “Then that is succeeded by grass pollen, which lasts until about early to mid-June.”

So how do you manage your symptoms when they start coming in?

Ogden says there are many great over-the-counter antihistamines that provide 24-hour relief. Another option is saline. Because saline does not contain medication, it can be used when needed and prevent pollen from settling in your eyes and nose throughout the day.

“I also like to always have my allergy patients armed with nasal saline spray and saline for the eyes to wash the pollen out at the end of the day along with a good shower,” Ogden said.

However, with all the different medications available, you may get confused as to what you should buy. Ogden advises not to hesitate to see a health professional to help you out with this and put you on the right track. But if you already know you have allergies and which medications to take, Ogden says to start them at least two weeks prior to the allergy season for the best results.

Along with medication, there are also simple day-to-day tasks that can reduce your pollen exposure and prevent your allergies from worsening.

  • Keeping your windows closed while running the air conditioner with a fresh filter
  • Changing your clothes as soon as you come home if you’ve been outside
  • Washing your face and showering every night
  • If you have pets, making sure they’re pollen-free before lying in bed or sitting on the couch with you
  • Being aware of the daily pollen count, which can be found on various websites and apps

Arming yourself with these tools can improve your survival against the allergy season.