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When Is Allergy Season Over

by Dan Hughes
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When Is Allergy Season Over

Allergies are annoying, but they’re not a seasonal phenomenon. The best way to avoid them is to stay indoors during pollen-heavy months, but that’s hardly practical for most people — especially those with allergies who spend their lives outdoors in cities or suburbs (or both). So when does it make sense to say “the springtime” instead of “outdoor allergies”?
The first rule of thumb is to look at the calendar. For instance, if you live somewhere cold like Boston, New York City, Chicago, San Francisco, Atlanta or Miami, your seasons will be dictated by temperature more than anything else. You’ll know spring has sprung when the thermometer hits 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius) on average for three days straight. That means no rain, snow or sleet needed. In fact, according to Weather Underground meteorologist John Morales, there hasn’t been a single day this year where the mercury failed to hit at least 40 degrees F since Dec. 1. It should also mean that any outdoor activities (such as mowing the lawn, walking the dog or taking long drives) can safely resume without fear of being overwhelmed by pollen.
But what about everyone else? If you live in Seattle, Portland or Los Angeles, chances are you’ve got some pretty mild allergies. And so have plenty of other places in the U.S., including Phoenix, St. Louis, Minneapolis, Houston and Dallas. Even in these areas, though, you may need to wait a few weeks before heading back outside. A study published in 2014 found that while many tree pollens drop off in late September and early October, grasses start producing allergenic spores around then too. Grass allergies typically peak in mid-to-late summer, though, which means that even if we do get two full allergy seasons here in North America, one may fall between May and June and the other might come later in the year.
In general, experts recommend waiting until grass isn’t actively growing anymore before going out into the sun. Here’s how allergist Dr. Brian Sperling puts it: “If I had to give advice to someone who has allergies, I would tell them to take their medications [as] soon as possible after symptoms appear.” He adds that the earlier your allergies are treated, the better; severe cases often require oral corticosteroids, which must be taken continuously over time.
So how much longer should we wait? We reached out to Dr. Sperling for his thoughts on the matter. “I think [it depends] on whether you have moderate or severe allergies,” he says via email. “For patients with moderate allergies, I think waiting 3-4 weeks after grass is gone is appropriate. For patients with severe allergies, I usually treat sooner because the patient is having difficulty breathing.”
And if you don’t feel comfortable getting a shot of steroids just yet? Try taking an antihistamine pill. According to Dr. Sperling, the earlier you can begin doing so, the sooner you’ll see results.
Once you’re feeling confident enough to head out, there are still a few things you should keep in mind. First, remember that your allergies aren’t the same as hay fever. While they share similar causes and treatments, allergic rhinitis affects the nose, whereas hay fever affects the throat, sinuses and mucus membranes. Second, try to limit exposure to specific types of pollens. Certain trees, such as oak and elm, release large amounts of small particles called microfibers that can trigger allergies. Grasses, meanwhile, produce tiny hairs that clog up our nasal passages. Other sources include weeds, ragweed and mold. Thirdly, steer away from foods containing omega-3 fatty acids, since they can block the lining of your lungs. Fourth, wash your hair and apply sunscreen lotion daily. Finally, consider using a humidifier to help combat dry indoor air.

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