Congratulations! You made it through fall and winter allergies. Now, welcome to the more common spring allergy season, when there are all sorts of things floating around in the air that can irritate your eyes, nose, and throat. We’ll explore spring allergy season, causes, and symptoms, along with how to fight back.
When Is Spring Allergy Season?
Birds are chirping, flowers are blooming, and moderate breezes are blowing; all of these are signs of spring! Nice, eh? But there’s also the yearly pollen-bearing party pooper of spring allergies that begins in March across the southern U.S., gradually working its way northward to the Canadian border by late April.
Let’s put these pesky particles under a microscope and take a closer look.
Pollen Shapes and Sizes
Many plants release tiny pollen grains to fertilize other plants of the same species. These grains are super small — their average size is 25 microns , which is just one-thousandth of an inch across. One plant can release millions, or even billions, of pollen particles over the course of a season. Pollen particles may have a very rough surface that can include spikes, craters, or ridges.
The bumpy surface of pollen particles can make it easier for them to stick to mucus membranes like:
- The lining of your nose
- Your eyes
- Inside of your ears
- In your throat and lungs
When the pollen gets in, some people develop an immune response to the invader and their body releases a substance called histamine. The allergic response in the nose and throat is called rhinitis, and can last anywhere from a few days in those who are mildly allergic to months for those with chronic allergies. A runny nose and sore throat are classic symptoms of rhinitis. Pollen may also trigger other allergic reactions like sneezing, red or watery eyes, and itching or rashes.
Why Does Pollen Cause Spring Allergies?
The air is saturated with pollen in the spring, and it seems to affect some people's immune systems more than others; in fact, about 20% of the U.S. population suffers from seasonal allergies. One cubic meter of air can contain thousands of pollen grains, so although you won't see them, your body might react to them. According to medical professionals, people with spring allergies’ (or allergies at any time of the year) immune systems malfunctioned at some point, marking a harmless substance like pollen as a threat. Once that happens, it’s very hard to get rid of the allergy.
3 Spring Allergy Pollen Types
The three culprits dumping spring pollen into the air are trees, grasses, and weeds.
- Tree pollen
Like most fruit trees, trees pollinated by insects typically do not produce pollen that causes spring allergies, but here are some other trees that do: ash, cottonwood, cypress, elm, oak, palm, pine, sycamore, willow — there’s a lot of them! Tree pollen tends to be the first one on the spring allergy season, arriving in March across the southern half of the U.S., and in April across the northern half of the country.
- Grass Pollen
Grass pollen usually follows tree pollen by a few weeks. Northern grasses like Johnson grass, fescue, and Kentucky bluegrass are prolific grass pollen producers, bermuda is a problem grass for pollen across the southern half of the nation. The popular St. Augustine grass, which covers most of the southern and western U.S., is luckily not an allergy producer. Typically, southern grasses begin their spring season by late March to early April, northern grasses begin bursting forth in late April to early May. These are averages that vary year-to-year depending on spring temperatures.
- Weed Pollen
Weed pollen tends to be more common in late spring all the way to mid-fall. Ragweed is considered to be the “worst” weed in the allergy world in most portions of the U.S., but pigweed is also high on the list of bad weed allergens.
Reduce the Impact of Spring Allergies
There’s not a guaranteed way to defeat spring allergy season, but there are some ways to push back and reduce the effects.
Control Pollen Exposure Indoors
Pollen sticks to things, so if you don’t clean regularly it can build up and aggravate the situation. Here are some tips to control spring allergies indoors:
- Change your HVAC filter every month during spring allergy season.
- Vacuum the floors and furniture once a week.
- Mop, don’t sweep; sweeping puts more pollen into the air.
- Keep clothing worn while working outdoors in the garage after use, as pollen sticks to fabric.
- Wash clothes after one wearing and keep the laundry bin away from the bedroom or bathroom.
- Monitor moisture such as condensation in your HVAC system, bathroom, or laundry area, and fix water leaks to minimize exposure to mold.
- Monitor and maintain proper indoor air quality (IAQ) levels with an AcuRite AIR™ Indoor Air Quality Monitor.
Control Pollen Exposure Outdoors
Reducing your exposure to outdoor spring allergy irritants can be trickier than indoors. However, here are some tips to help:
- Apply a pre-emergent weed killer/fertilizer treatment during late winter or early spring before grass and weeds start growing. The soil temperature, which you can monitor year round with the AcuRite Soil Temperature Probe, must be 55 °F (13 °C) or more. Don’t apply it too early, as it’s only effective for about eight weeks.
- If you are hit hard by spring allergies, avoid yard work whenever possible.
- If you must work outside, wear gloves, safety glasses, a long-sleeved shirt, long-legged pants, a cap, and a mask.
- Remain indoors on dry, windy days when pollen disperses more easily.
Pinpoint Pollen With Weather Technology
The three primary weather factors controlling pollen are precipitation, relative humidity, and wind. Moist air reduces pollen concentration, while dry, windy weather spreads the pollen, and rain washes it out almost completely. Track these factors with a quality home weather station as a great weather monitoring tool to fight those pesky spring allergies!
Steve LaNore is a certified broadcast meteorologist with more than 30 years’ forecasting and technical experience. He has provided meteorological consulting for everything from insurance adjusters to court cases and is a nine-time award-winning author and broadcaster. LaNore has authored two books, available on Amazon. He resides in north Texas near beautiful Lake Texoma.