Spring Pollen Forecast: Sniffly and Sneezy?

However, not all allergists are willing to predict a tough season this year. Dr. Joseph Costa, director of allergy services at Brigham and Women's Hospital, said even with pollen counters, there's really no way to tell whether a difficult allergy season is on the way.

"If we have a lot of rainy days, it'll knock the pollen down," said Costa. "On the other hand, if we have a lot of really warm and dry days, it can be horrible, but there's no way to tell."

In fact, Costa said for many allergy sufferers, the overall pollen count on a particular day may not be directly associated with allergic symptoms. Through a process called priming, even minor exposures to pollen toward the end of the season may result in a reaction.

"So really, it doesn't take a higher pollen count for some to feel worse symptoms," said Costa. "It could be less pollen than the last time they were exposed that will give them just as harsh of a reaction."

Where's the Relief?

Josephson said that, although the pollen count has increased, it may not mean that allergy sufferers will have to endure harsh symptoms. Staying indoors or using over-the-counter antihistimines may work for some, even on high-pollen days, he said.

He also suggested keeping windows closed, in your home and your car, changing home air filters and using nasal rinses to ease congestion.

However, there is a threshold that, once passed, should lead allergy sufferers to seek a doctor's advice for stronger treatments, Josephson said.

"You should do more for your symptoms when you feel fatigued, which can lead to not being productive at work," said Josephson. "[Allergists] have newer medicines to treat allergy and sinus problems, and there are combination therapies to get relief."

One of the worst things to do is to ignore allergy symptoms, said Josephson. If left untreated, he said, they can lead to more serious problems, such as chronic sinusitis or respiratory infections.

Alpers said she tackles her allergy symptoms as they come along. And after what she described as a long winter in New England, Alpers said regardless of the grim outlook this season, she won't allow her allergies to keep her inside.

"I look forward to spring, even though it's when I feel the worse and I know I'm going to be in for a nice allergy-filled experience," she said.


Visit the ABCNews.com OnCall+ Allergy Center to get all your questions answered about pollen, allergic rhinitis, sinusitis and more.

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