Why Seasonal Allergies Might Be Worse this Year

Spring in the Ozarks! It’s hard to beat the beauty of the Natural State as the air warms up, trees bud, and flowers bloom. But for many of us, this is also allergy season. Time to enjoy nature, and time to sniffle, sneeze, and cough our way through these beautiful spring days. This year, seasonal allergies might be worse than ever.

A longer pollen season

Weather in Northwest Arkansas has been fickle, but Pollen.com is already showing us with a high pollen count. Over the past couple of decades, we’ve seen an earlier spring and a longer pollen season. That naturally means a longer seasonal allergy season.

For the U.S. in general, the trend averages an extra 20 high pollen days each year, and more than 20% more pollen concentration overall. That’s not just a brief spell when winter gives over to spring. It’s tree pollen followed by grass pollen, weed pollen all summer, and ragweed in particular until October brings a frost. 

Consequences of lockdown

Some research suggests that young children who have been sheltered to keep them safe from COVID-19 may not have gotten as much development of their immune systems as they usually would over the past year. It’s possible that this could make seasonal allergies worse now that the kids are getting out and about.

On the other hand, some researchers say COVID-19 could bring out a different set of factors that can affect allergies. They point to lower levels of air pollution during the pandemic. We’ve also been spending more time indoors with indoor allergens. And masks can protect us from some allergens, too. These factors make it hard to draw conclusions about how the pandemic might affect seasonal allergies. 

However, our reaction to allergy symptoms might also be different this year. You may usually respond to your normal seasonal allergies with a routine medication or mild irritation. This year, though, a tickle in the throat or a sneeze could make you worry that you might have COVID-19. Anxiety could make allergy symptoms feel worse. 

Seasonal allergy solutions

If you normally suffer from seasonal allergies and your symptoms are the same, you can go ahead with your usual treatment plan. Sniffles, sneezes, coughs, and sore throat are common symptoms of respiratory allergies. 

Fever, chills, and loss of smell or taste are not normal allergy symptoms. If you experience these signs, call your family doctor.

If you don’t usually have seasonal allergies but this season you are experiencing symptoms, you might still want to call your doctor to see whether you might need medication. 

Steps to take to reduce seasonal allergies:

  • Change your air filter.
  • Vacuum regularly, with a HEPA filter if possible.
  • Don’t hang sheets or towels outside to dry.
  • Wipe pets down with a towel when they come indoors.
  • When you come in after being outside for a while, shower and change clothes to reduce pollen exposure.
  • Leave your shoes at the door.
  • Wear your mask outdoors.
  • Since pollen counts are highest in the morning, you might want to plan outdoor activities for the afternoon.
  • Drink plenty of fluids.

If you worry that you might have COVID-19, don’t hesitate to contact your physician. There’s no need to live with extra anxiety.