Living With Allergies

5 Ways to Prepare for the Longest Spring Allergy Season Yet

Field of dandelions
Photo by Victor Serban

It’s not all in your head: The pollen season is starting earlier and lasting longer every year. If you feel that spring allergy season should be over by now, you’re not alone.

For anyone who’s allergic to pollen, we get it, this sucks. Before you panic, though, know that there are plenty of ways to prepare for a longer allergy season, from keeping up with your treatments to avoiding your triggers as much as possible. You may find yourself needing to do a little more to manage your allergies than you have in previous years, but with some extra planning, you’ll still be able to live your life without hiding indoors for half the year.

But first, let’s back up a bit.

How long is the allergy season anyway?

That depends on what you’re allergic to and where you live. While there’s usually some sort of pollen in the air all times of the year besides winter, you may only be sensitive to ragweed pollen, for instance, or a particular species of tree pollen.

When you hear about “allergy season” in the news, they’re usually talking about the period from around March to October when there’s measurable pollen in the air. Or they may just be referring to spring, since that’s when we start thinking about seasonal allergies for the first time. It also turns out that spring is the part of allergy season that’s expanding pretty quickly.

Why is the spring allergy season getting longer?

According to a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the main driver of changes in the length of the pollen season is climate change. Researchers found that the pollen season was on average 20 days longer in 2018 than in 1990, and pollen concentrations in the air were also 21% higher. Both of these numbers strongly correlate to increasing temperatures during those years.

Essentially, warmer temperatures mean the growing season starts earlier and lasts longer than it used to. That gives plants more time to fertilize other plants of the same species by releasing those tiny grains of pollen into the air, which then puts your immune system on red alert and produces your symptoms. The most dramatic difference in length is during the spring allergy season, which is starting on average 20 days earlier than it was in 1990.

So, now that we have longer pollen seasons, what are you supposed to do about it?

1. Keep an eye on the pollen count

Even within your allergy season, some days are better than others—pollen counts tend to peak on dry, windy days and in the early morning. Tracking the pollen levels in your area or even downloading a pollen tracking app can help you decide which days to brave the outdoors and when you’ll want to stick close to home.

When you do want (or need) to go outside…

2. Get your sunglasses, hat, and mask ready

Keeping pollen out of your eyes, nose, mouth, and hair can help make your symptoms less intense. Pick out your accessories now and leave them by your front door so you don’t have to worry about forgetting your pollen protection when you’re in a hurry.

It’s also a good idea to shower and change your clothes when you get home to get as much pollen off of you as you can. And to keep the indoors safe from your allergy triggers…

3. Give your home an allergist-approved spring cleaning

Ah, spring cleaning. It’s no one’s favorite part of spring, but you’d be surprised at all the places allergens could be hiding in your home, from your bedding and upholstered furniture to your trash can. Board-certified allergist and Picnic Medical Director Dr. Amina Abdeldaim recommends that you use an allergen-proof mattress cover, throw out old receipts, and more here: The 9 Spring Cleaning Tips Every Allergy Sufferer Needs to Try.

Once you get your home as squeaky clean as you can, make sure to keep the windows closed to prevent pollen from sneaking back in. You can also…

4. Set up an air purifier to reduce allergens at home

No matter how vigilant you are, some allergens will likely still work their way into your home. An air purifier can remove some of the airborne allergens that make it inside by passing the air through a series of filters.

Already have an air purifier? Now would be a good time to clean the filter, since mold and other irritants can grow on it and then get blown back into the air when you turn it back on for the season.

And even if you do all of that, it’s still important to…

5. Stock up on allergy medicine

The last thing any allergy sufferer wants is to wake up to their first day of full-blown symptoms, open the bathroom cabinet, and find nothing there. Plus, it’s actually better to start taking your medication before your symptoms show up, since some types of treatments can take up to a month for you to feel the full impact.

Another great way to make sure you never run out of the treatment you need is to get it shipped to you automatically each month, which you can do with Picnic. And if you’re not sure if you have the best treatment plan for your symptoms, you can take the Picnic allergy quiz for a personalized recommendation.

ARTICLE REVIEWED BYAmina H. Abdeldaim, MD MPHPicnic Medical Director
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