In temperate regions, spring typically sees an influx of wind-borne seasonal pollens released from trees, grasses, flowers, and weeds.
The most common cause of allergies in the spring, pollen grains are powdery particles produced by plants to carry their reproductive cells to other plants. The grains are designed to easily float through the air, eventually pollinating other plants across a given area.
Pollen’s size varies from six microns to 100 microns in diameter. In comparison, bacteria are less than one micron in size and table salt is around 120 microns in diameter. When inhaled, pollen lodges into the nose and throat, which can trigger allergy and asthma symptoms.
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Why your pollen allergies might be worse this year
If you find yourself wondering why your allergies seem to be coming on earlier every year, it may not be your imagination. Scientists point to a direct and perhaps unexpected cause for longer allergy seasons. Climate change may be partly responsible.
Studies show that rising global temperatures increase plant and flower growth--thus affecting pollen production and release.
Beyond simple climate changes, an even bigger factor influencing rising pollen production (and the population’s allergic reactions) is increasing carbon dioxide emissions.
One study revealed that the U.S. is predicted to see a 200 percent increase in total pollen this century if CO2 emissions from various sources such as vehicles and power plants remain high. Pollen season could begin up to over a month earlier in the spring and last up to 19 days longer in that case.
In other words, it’s time to be as prepared as possible, as springtime pollen season is coming earlier--and lasting longer. And things do not seem likely to change.
Tips to manage spring allergy symptoms
Tip 1. Get your spring cleaning started early
A clean house means less pollen, dust, and other allergy triggers. Use a vacuum cleaner equipped with a HEPA filter at least once a week on carpets, area rugs and on fabric-covered furniture. Hiring a professional carpet cleaner every six months can help remove allergens that have become embedded in the fabrics.
Tip 2. Monitor daily pollen counts
Knowledge is power. If you stay up to date on how much pollen is in the air at any given time, you can act accordingly. There are a variety of online resources that allow you to track current pollen conditions, forecasts, and historical allergy data, as well as providing recommendations. Some sources even provide which allergen is causing trouble.
Tip 3. Turn on the air conditioner
It’s tempting to leave the windows open to the warming breeze, but this can allow pollen and other contaminants into your space. But before you set your thermostat at a comfortable temperature, make sure your HVAC filter is clean. If it’s been a while since you replaced it, make sure you run to your local hardware store to for a new one.
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Tip 4. Choose flowers wisely
There are a number of occasions during the spring season, like Mother’s Day, when you might want to give a loved one flowers. But you don’t want your thoughtful gift to result in itchy eyes and nose, coughing, and sneezing.
To help, it’s crucial to avoid flowers that produce large amounts of airborne pollen (1). There are several allergy and asthma-friendly flowers (2)(3):
Better Choices (less pollen)
Worse Choices (more pollen)
- baby’s breath (single-flower variety)
Tip 5. Move your workouts indoors
It might seem like a good idea to go on a nice springtime run, but often the indoor air quality is better than it is outside.
And, if you must exercise outdoors, make sure you check the air quality in your local area with air quality monitors or by using an air quality app to see the air quality in real-time. When outdoors, an air pollution protection mask can filter virtually all pollen and other allergens from the air you breathe.
Tip 6. Shower at night
After a long day of being outside, a nice shower can help wash away any pollen or other allergens that could be lingering on your skin, hair, and clothing.
Tip 7. Be aware of springtime mold
High humidity levels, which often begin in springtime, can be the perfect environment for mold to grow. A simple indoor hygrometer can be used to detect levels. The recommended humidity levels for a home are 30-50 percent; anything higher could encourage mold spores to grow (4).
Tip 8. Be mindful of food allergies
One interesting indicator of whether you may have springtime allergies is Pollen Food Allergy Syndrome (PFAS). This syndrome affects people who have allergies to birch, ragweed, or grass pollens (5). Symptoms include itchy mouth, scratchy throat, or swelling of the lips, mouth, tongue, and throat. PFAS can be triggered by eating some of the following uncooked foods:
- sunflower seeds
If you have allergic reactions when eating those foods, you may find pollen to be an allergy trigger as well.
Tip 9. Be proactive.
You can keep your indoor air clean at all times by using a high-performance room air purifier for allergies, mold, viruses, and other pollutants. There are also whole-house air cleaning solutions that integrate fully with your home’s HVAC system.
To truly manage spring allergy symptoms, it is important to stay informed, take preventative measures, and improve air quality in your home or office, especially during high allergy seasons (like springtime), to avoid allergy outbreaks.
And when Mother’s Day rolls around this May, don’t forget to carefully choose the right flowers. If she’s an allergy sufferer, she’ll spend more time smiling and less time sneezing because of your careful selection.