Is the Change in Weather Triggering Your Allergy Symptoms?

Is the Change in Weather Triggering Your Allergy Symptoms?

November 20, 2019

In recent years, scientists have become increasingly interested in understanding how various weather patterns and extreme conditions impact our health.

In fact, we often associate weather changes with our allergy symptoms because some seasons bring in specific allergens that trigger sneezing, wheezing, and runny noses. For instance, mold grows in the winter months, pollen is rampant during spring season, ragweed in the fall, and poison ivy is widespread in the summer.  Transitions between seasons are often the most challenging periods for allergy sufferers.

The colder months can also trigger indoor allergens – like pet dander and dust mites. While dust mites are common during humid summer months, they can get stirred into the air the first time you turn on your heat in the fall. We become more susceptible to these allergens as we spend more time indoors when it’s cold out.

And while mold is known to grow in damp basements and bathrooms, wet outdoor conditions are ideal breeding grounds for mold – such as piles of wet leaves. Going back to school can also trigger allergies in kids as mold and dust mites are common in schools.

The effects of climate change have also pushed temperatures up and brought higher-than-average rainfall levels, thereby increasing allergy season length and its intensity.1

In some parts of the U.S., dust mites and pollen can exist year-round due to the humidity of the rainy season and homes that are not completely weather-tight.2

Regional conditions such as high winds and rains can also “wake up” trees and grasses, and send out pollen clouds to affected areas.3

 

What can you do to relieve your allergy symptoms?

 

While it’s not possible to avoid the weather, understanding your triggers and limiting exposure to them can significantly impact your quality of life.

Control your indoor environment by using a dehumidifier to ward off mold and dust mites, or use a HEPA filter to remove mold, pollen, and other particles from the air.4

Check local air quality levels, pollen and mold counts, and watch for Ozone Action Days. Spend less time outdoors if you’re susceptible to these triggers. Or wear a mask when performing outdoor tasks and activities.5

Before turning on your heat for the first time, clean heating vents and change the air filter to clear out remnant bits of mold and allergens from the summer.

Besides over-the-counter allergy remedies, there are other ways to minimize symptoms such as use of a neti pot (nasal rinse) or sweeping away allergens (vacuuming can spread more allergens).  In some cases, these treatments are not enough, so it’s best to consult with an allergist to get the proper diagnosis.

 

Notes:

[1]“This Year’s Bay Area Pollen Season Is Really Bad. Here’s Why”, KQED Science, May 20, 2019, https://www.kqed.org/science/1941908/this-years-bay-area-pollen-season-is-really-bad-heres-why

[2], [3] “Coping with San Diego’s Year-Round Allergy Season”, Scripps Health, October 26, 2018, https://www.scripps.org/news_items/4182-coping-with-san-diego-s-year-round-allergy-season

[4], [5] “How Weather Affects Allergies,” WebMD, https://www.webmd.com/allergies/how-weather-affects-allergies#2

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