'It's More Intense': Expert Tips to Manage Earlier Allergy Season

Allergy season is now starting earlier due to climate change. An expert allergist tells Healthnews how to manage it moving forward.

About one-quarter of adults living in the United States suffer from seasonal allergies. If you fall into that category, you may find your nose to be stuffy a little earlier than usual this year.

That’s because allergy season is starting earlier and earlier due to the effects of climate change, according to Kara Wada, M.D., a board-certified allergy, immunology, and lifestyle medicine physician also known as “The Crunchy Allergist.”

Wada says climate change contributes to prolonged periods of warmer temperatures, longer seasons, and higher pollen counts. It also worsens air pollution.

“These factors can cause allergy season to start earlier, last longer, and be more intense,” she tells Healthnews.

Warmer temperatures and increased car emissions also stimulate increased plant growth, she explains, leading to various trees, grass, and weed pollens entering the environment earlier, causing more severe allergy symptoms for a longer period of time.

What many people don’t know, she says, is that worsening air quality and pollution alter the pollen structure, release more allergens, and make pollen more “aggressive.” As a result, allergens may be able to penetrate deeper into the airways and cause even more severe allergy symptoms, she says.

The exposure to allergens and air pollutants enhances allergic inflammation and aggravates respiratory symptoms.

Kara Wada, M.D.

Perhaps most concerning, Wada says, is that seasonal allergy symptoms are on the rise, with an estimated 50% of the global population expected to have an allergic disease by 2050.

How to manage earlier seasonal allergies

To help ease the burden of an earlier, longer, more intense allergy season, Wada first recommends minimizing exposure to allergens. She suggests showering after being outside to help rinse pollen from your skin and hair and, if possible, keeping your windows closed during allergy season.

“Although the temperatures may be rising, keeping your windows closed keeps pollen from entering the household,” she tells Healthnews.

Wada also recommends utilizing technology to avoid exposure to allergens, such as a new navigation tool from Allegra Airways designed to help people find real-time walking, biking, and running routes with cleaner air based on hyperlocal pollen and air pollution levels on a street-by-street basis. Air purifiers can also help rid your home of allergens, and a high quality furnace filter — that you change often — can also be effective.

Taking over-the-counter allergy medication before the season even begins is also a good idea, Wada says. To proactively help manage allergy symptoms, she suggests taking antihistamine allergy medication two to four weeks before allergy season is in full swing, but don’t forget to ask your doctor which over-the-counter medication is best for you.

Immunology can also be a beneficial approach, she says.

“As an allergist, I often work with patients to tailor a treatment plan that addresses their unique situation, exploring options like immunotherapy for long-term relief,” Wada tells Healthnews.

Although immunotherapy has been strictly limited to allergy shots for many years, she says newer approaches are increasingly available, including sublingual (applied under the tongue) and intralymphatic (given through a lymphatic vessel) approaches, which can provide increased convenience and less risk of reactions.

Working with an allergist can be a helpful way to create a personalized treatment regimen that addresses your specific needs, she says. Allergists can also help you determine if immunotherapy may be a good fit for you as a long-term treatment option.

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