NEW YORK—Spring officially arrived in the Northern Hemisphere mid-March, and it brought allergy season with it. The 2024 allergy season is expected to start earlier and potentially feel worse than other years; The New York Times reports, “Spring allergy seasons are beginning about 20 days earlier than they had, according to an analysis of pollen count data from 60 stations across North America from 1990 to 2018.” But why, and what does that mean for those of us who suffer from sneezing, itching and coughing every Spring?

AP reports that climate change and a relatively mild winter led to higher pollen counts earlier in the year. The Times reports, “Warmer temperatures, higher concentrations of carbon dioxide and increased precipitation can all contribute to plants’ growing bigger and producing more pollen over longer periods of time.”

Assuming the weather remains warm throughout Spring, allergy season will also likely last longer than it has in previous years. AccuWeather reports, “it could be a bad year all around for allergies in the eastern United States, starting in mid-spring and not letting up until after the dog days of summer.” In particular, according to AP, Wichita, Kansas; Virginia Beach, Virginia; Greenville, South Carolina; Dallas; and Oklahoma City will have it the worst; this data is based on The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America’s annual ranking of “The Most Challenging Places to Live with Allergies,” which is based on over the counter (OTC) medicine use, pollen counts and allergy specialists available in the area.

With more than 1 in 4 adults and nearly 1 in 5 children having seasonal allergies, according to CNN, there’s no question that allergy season is impactful on everyone. Allergy symptoms often overlap with cold, or even COVID, symptoms; to tell the difference, CNN reports, remember that seasonal allergies do not cause fevers, while colds tend to last for a shorter amount of time and are more common in winter. An itchy throat and nose coupled with red, watery eyes are relatively telltale signs of seasonal allergies as opposed to colds.

Image © 2024 Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America

So how can we approach this time of year without too much misery?

First things first, says The Times: keep your windows closed. There’s no reason to let pollen (be it tree, grass or weed pollen, the three most common in the U.S.) into your home if you don’t have to. This will keep your indoor spaces allergen-free. When you go inside, it could also be helpful to change your clothes and have a quick shower to rinse any allergens off your skin. You can also make a sterile saline nasal rinse to flush any pollen out of your nose, according to The Times.

It's also important to find out what exactly you are allergic to, AP says, which you can do by visiting an allergist. Then, there are a number of OTC medications that can help reduce symptoms, usually antihistamines or steroids. In general, The Times says, it’s best to start with antihistamines. Steroids work best if you start using them about a week before symptoms actually begin, so they are better recommended for those who have experienced seasonal allergies before and know what to expect.

Finally, says The Times, “Doctors caution against using products with pseudoephedrine, such as Sudafed, for more than a day or two because they can increase heart rate and blood pressure. In 2020, a task force of physicians that issues guidelines for treating allergies recommended against using Benadryl to treat allergic rhinitis; doctors said it can have sedative effects and cause confusion.”

Thankfully, there is no shortage of ways to treat allergy symptoms and keep yourself protected this season. And while allergies are no fun for anyone, at least they remind us that Spring is here, and Summer days are on their way.