You may feel as though you have year-round allergies, and you may be right. See what's most likely to be causing you to sneeze and wheeze as the months go by.
If you suffer from allergies for even part of the year, you may wonder when you'll get a reprieve. People with spring allergies, fall allergies, or winter allergies might feel relief during their off seasons, but for those who experience allergy symptoms year-round — it's a constant battle with allergens in the air. Here's a look at which allergies plague people most — and when.
During the winter, there's less pollen (if any) floating around, but cranking up the heat indoors can kick up house dust, a winter allergy trigger. If you're allergic to dust, winter allergies can be just as bad as in the spring and fall. To reduce dust exposure, it helps to keep your home's humidity below 55 percent, use a vacuum with a HEPA filter regularly, and encase pillows and mattresses with dust-mite-proof covers.
Mold and dust can cause year-round allergy symptoms, but even if dust and mold don't bring on the sniffles for you, trees can cause your allergies to flare at this time of year, depending on where you live. "We can see tree pollen as early as February, even in the Northeast," says Marjorie L. Slankard, MD, an associate attending physician and director of the Allergy Clinic at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center. In the United States, trees that commonly cause allergies include catalpa, elm, hickory, olive, pecan, sycamore, and walnut. Tree pollen can cause the same symptoms as most spring allergies — watery eyes, sneezing, and nasal congestion
Tree pollen remains high on the list of allergens for March, which marks the beginning of spring. "If the trees, grasses, and pollens start coming out early, March can be rough going for people with spring allergies," Dr. Slankard says. Though nice spring weather beckons you outside, if you have spring allergies, keep your eye on the pollen count. The higher the count, the worse the allergies will be. A good place to check pollen counts is at the National Allergy Bureau of the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology.
April showers can bring … spring allergies. All that rain can make for blooming flowers, but as beautiful as they are, flowers and their pollen means discomfort for people with spring allergies. In some areas of the country, grass pollen emerges in April, too. Between the pollen from the flowers and the pollen from the grass, spring allergies may make you feel especially miserable.
Allergic to tree pollen? Although tree pollination can begin as early as February, it can last through May. That means you might need to slog through spring allergies for four long months. Grass pollen can also emerge this time of year in some parts of the country.
June is a key grass pollen month in many areas, and it's likely that grass pollen will start to trigger your spring allergies by this time of year if it hasn't already. As the days get longer and the temperature gets higher, you'll probably want to spend more time outdoors. If you suffer from spring allergies, you may have good days and bad days — the temperature, the rainfall amount, and even the time of day will affect grass pollen levels, and you'll need to adjust accordingly.
The good news is that by July, grass pollen should subside and you might feel like your spring allergies are finally becoming manageable again. The bad news is that July marks the start of fungus spores and seeds, so if you're allergic to molds and spores, too, you may feel like your allergies never end. Mold can grow on fallen leaves, compost piles, grasses, and grains.
August is a prime month for people with summer allergies to mold spores, which peak during hot, humid weather. You might want to stay inside on days when the mold spore count is particularly high. The best way to keep away from these allergens is to run the air conditioning with a HEPA filter — this cool comfort indoors should help you feel better during the dog days of August.
Late summer/early fall ragweed is the most common cause of fall allergies. Depending on where you live, ragweed-fueled fall allergies can start in August or September and continue through October and possibly November. Pollen grains are lightweight and spread easily, especially on windy days. The more wet and windy autumn is in your area, the more easily the pollen spreads, and the worse your symptoms will feel
Chances that fall allergies will ease by October get better the farther north you go in the United States. But in warmer climates, fall allergies can linger well into this month. Seasonal rain and wind can also ramp up mold spores — if your fall allergies include mold or fungi spores, your symptoms may linger.
The ragweed pollen season usually ends by mid-November in most areas of the country. If you have fall allergies and react to fungi and molds, you probably face your worst symptoms in late summer and early fall. Although you might feel miserable from the end of March until November, making it seem like you have year-round allergies, you should get a break now. November may be one of the best months for people with outdoor allergies, which allows for enjoying the crisp weather. Then, just in time, indoor allergies to pet dander and indoor molds pick up.
As pretty as they are, real Christmas trees can make you wheeze and sneeze. It's likely not the tree itself that triggers allergies but the microscopic mold spores that can harbor in its branches. If you can't resist buying a live tree despite winter allergies, take it home a week before you plan to decorate it and leave it in a garage or an enclosed porch. Then give it a good shake to try to get rid of any spores.