While you might enjoy the warmer weather, you certainly don't welcome spring allergy symptoms. But knowing the sources of bothersome spring allergies, such as pollen, can help you reduce your exposure.
Many people see the start of spring as a welcome change. But with the warm breeze comes airborne pollen and mold spores. And if you suffer from seasonal allergies, you probably feel them with every inhale. Allergens send the body's immune system into overdrive, leading to allergy symptoms such as sneezing, a stuffy nose, and itching. In the springtime alone, which typically begins in March, hay fever — an allergy to pollen or mold — affects 30 to 60 million people in the United States.
"Spring is typically considered to be a tree pollen season," says James Li, MD, board-certified asthma and allergy specialist and chair of the division of allergic diseases in the department of internal medicine at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. Summer tends to bring grass pollen allergies, and ragweed allergies usually hit in the fall.
This year, many U.S. regions experienced warmer-than-normal winters, which gave trees in those areas an early start at pollinating.
Mold, which is considered a year-round allergy, can also wreak havoc in spring. This is especially true when damp and rainy conditions, followed by warmer weather, lead to a high concentration of mold.
Spring Allergies: Tree Pollen
Trees cause allergies because they produce small pollen cells that are light and dry, and can be carried far by the spring breeze.
Eleven types of trees are common triggers of hay fever in spring, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology:
- Western red cedar
These trees release pollen around the same time every year. If you're allergic to any of them, when their pollen is in the air you'll start sneezing, experience congestion, and feel itchy eyes, ears, nose, and mouth.
You'll get some relief from spring allergy symptoms on rainy or cloudy days, or when there's no wind to make the pollen airborne. But when the weather is warm and dry, and especially when the wind picks up, allergies are likely to become worse.
Spring Allergies: Mold
Mold spores work in a similar way. Mold, such as yeast and mildew, releases seeds called spores that are carried by the wind. They're very abundant in the air outside and tend to cause the worst allergy symptoms from spring through fall.
Outdoor molds include Alternaria, Cladosporium, and Hormodendrun. Mold can also be found inside your home; indoor molds include Aspergillus and Penicillium.
Mold also causes typical allergy symptoms, such as sneezing, congestion, a runny nose, or watery eyes that are itchy.
Getting Relief From Spring Allergies
Your best defense from spring allergies is to keep your doors and windows closed, use allergy filters on your air conditioning unit, wash your clothes and take a shower after you've been exposed to pollen and mold spores, and avoid doing yard work or exercising outdoors on days when pollen counts are high. You can also talk to your doctor or allergist about treatment options.