The latter part of winter has been brutally cold across much of the United States, and March has brought typical wild swings in the weather. So, it’s no wonder that many Americans may be eager to get outside and enjoy the fresh air and consistent warmth. But for the millions of people who suffer from seasonal allergies, this time of year can be especially hard.
A team of AccuWeather forecasters, led by Senior Meteorologist Alan Reppert, took a deep dive into forecast data, weather patterns and climate research to forecast what the fast-approaching allergy season will be like and if there will be an extended or higher-than-usual pollen season.
According to Climate Central, a nonprofit science and news organization based in Princeton, NJ, recent research suggests that the growing seasons are becoming longer across the continental U.S., thus creating a longer pollen season that could prolong the symptoms many seasonal allergy sufferers endure.
Various types of allergens can affect Americans at different times of the year and with different levels of severity. According to Reppert, trees are commonly the first and biggest pollen producers in the spring.
By late spring and early summer, grass pollen will start to dominate, and, finally, toward the late summer and early fall, weed pollen will take over for the rest of the season.
The weather plays an important role in how much pollen is produced, how it is distributed and how much is in the air at any given time. When determining if the pollen levels will be high, average or low, one must take into account important factors like rain, wind and temperature.
On rainy or windless days, pollen has a harder time circulating, which reduces allergy symptoms. Pollen tends to travel more with warm, windy and dry weather. Dry conditions and drought can hinder grass and weed growth and reduce certain pollen levels.
The complexity of allergies: In recent years, on top of allergy season in the U.S., COVID-19 has added another layer of complexity since symptoms of seasonal allergies, the common cold, the flu and COVID-19 can appear similar.
While all four can cause fatigue, the common cold, the flu and COVID-19 will cause fatigue immediately compared to seasonal allergies.
Dr. David Shulan, who previously worked for Certified Allergy and Asthma Consultants in Albany, NY, and is now retired, told AccuWeather in an interview that people who suffer from allergies can become fatigued because, for many people, allergies can be highly disruptive to sleep. Head congestion can make it harder for the sufferer to get a good night of rest, therefore making the person fatigued.
Common symptoms of allergies are itchy eyes, sneezing and a runny nose. And, there’s one telltale sign that allergies are not the culprit behind your symptoms.
“If you’re running a fever, it’s not allergies,” Shulan said.
Dealing with allergies: While allergies commonly develop early in life, Shulan said that people can develop allergies at any age. The good news is that allergies are treatable.
Little changes like washing your hair after being outside or drying clothes in the dryer—and not on the clothesline—can help reduce symptoms for allergy sufferers.
Shulan noted that keeping the windows open, especially on windy days, can worsen symptoms for allergy sufferers. He said closing the windows and using an air conditioner, even if it is just a window unit, can make a substantial difference.
For those who are looking for immediate relief from seasonal allergies, Shulan suggested people should take non-sedating oral antihistamines, like Claritin, Zyrtec or Allegra, which all work to help relieve the common symptoms of allergies like sneezing, runny nose and watery eyes.
If these oral antihistamines don’t seem to work, Shulan recommends seeing a doctor as the next step. Allergists can pinpoint the exact trigger that initiates a reaction.