If you feel like you’re always getting sick, with a cough or head congestion, it’s probably time to see an allergist. You are probably sure pollen is causing your suffering, but other substances may be involved as well (we’ve outlined some other culprits below). More than two-thirds of spring allergy sufferers actually have year-round symptoms. Your best resource for finding what’s causing your suffering and stopping it, not just treating the symptoms, is an allergist.
There are things you can do to minimize triggers:
- Monitor pollen and mold counts. Weather reports in the news often include this information during allergy seasons.
- Keep windows and doors shut at home and in your car during allergy season.
- Know which pollens you are sensitive to. In spring and summer, during tree and grass pollen season, levels are highest in the evening. In late summer and early fall, during ragweed pollen season, levels are highest in the morning.
- Take a shower, wash your hair and change your clothes after you’ve been working or playing outdoors.
In many areas of the United States, spring allergies begin in February and last until the early summer. Tree pollination begins earliest in the year followed by grass pollination later in the spring and summer and ragweed in the late summer and fall. In tropical climates, however, grass may pollinate throughout a good portion of the year. Mild winter temperatures can cause plants to pollinate early. A rainy spring can also promote rapid plant growth and lead to an increase in mold, causing symptoms to last well into the fall.
The most common culprit for fall allergies is ragweed, a plant that grows wild almost everywhere, but especially on the East Coast and in the Midwest. Ragweed blooms and releases pollen from August to November. In many areas of the country, ragweed pollen levels are highest in early to mid-September.
While the timing and severity of an allergy season vary across the country, the following climate factors also can influence how bad your symptoms might be:
- Tree, grass and ragweed pollens thrive during cool nights and warm days.
- Molds grow quickly in heat and high humidity.
- Pollen levels tend to peak in the morning hours.
- Rain washes pollen away, but pollen counts can soar after rainfall.
- On a day with no wind, airborne allergens are grounded.
- When the day is windy and warm, pollen counts surge.
While the term “seasonal allergies” generally refers to grass, pollen and mold, there is a different group of triggers that are closely tied to particular seasons. Among them:
- Smoke (campfires in summer, fireplaces in winter)
- Insect bites and stings (usually in spring and summer)
- Chlorine in indoor and outdoor swimming pools
- Candy ingredients (Halloween, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Easter)
- Pine trees and wreaths (Thanksgiving to Christmas)
What is the difference between season allergies vs. COVID-19?
COVID-19 is a contagious respiratory illness. Seasonal allergies triggered by airborne pollen affects the nose and sinuses, and seasonal allergic conjunctivitis, which affects the eyes.
COVID-19 and seasonal allergies share many symptoms, but there are some key differences between the two. For example, COVID-19 can cause fever, which is not a common symptom of seasonal allergies.
Because some of the symptoms of COVID-19 and seasonal allergies are similar, it may be difficult to tell the difference between them. If you are concerned, the safest bet is go get a test to confirm your diagnosis.