Spring Could Be the Worst Allergy Season Ever

PHOTO: Spring this year could be the worst season ever for allergies with the season starting earlier and extending into October.PlayBrand New Images/Getty Images
WATCH Spring Allergies Come Early

In a trend that may make your eyes water just thinking about it, seasonal allergy experts are confirming that 2013 allergies are going to start sooner -- and last longer -- in most parts of the country.

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The 2013 allergy season is expected to occur about 14 days earlier in many parts of the United States; experts believe that seasonal allergies will last about 30 days longer, too, running through the month of October.

"We're expecting to see a very robust allergy season because of a lot of precipitation during late winter and the warmer temperatures we're seeing now throughout the country," says adult and pediatric allergy specialist Dr. Clifford Bassett, clinical assistant professor of medicine at the New York University School of Medicine and Langone Medical Center.

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Two things will fuel what's anticipated to be a grueling allergy season:

Global Climate Change

Higher-than-normal carbon dioxide emissions are fueling pollen production, telling plants to produce three to five times more pollen.

"This is the physical effect of increasing greenhouse gases on certain plants," Dr. Bassett explains. In fact, United States Department of Agriculture studies found that a single ragweed plant could be producing up to 4 billion pollen grains! "Not only is the pollen more prolific, it seems to be more powerful, supercharged," Dr. Bassett explains.

Favorable Weather

Lots of precipitation in late winter and warmer current temperatures set the stage for excess tree pollen. The well-watered root systems are ready to produce!

Which days will be the worst? Higher levels of pollens generally occur on warm, dry, and windy days; lower levels of seasonal pollens circulate on calm, wet, and cloudy days.

Surprising Allergy Fighters

Dr. Bassett shares expert tips to help you survive 2013 allergies:

Gauge It

To get a sense of your seasonal allergy status, visit allergyandasthmarelief.org to take a free allergy relief test. Before starting any type of treatment, get your seasonal allergies confirmed with a simple in-office allergy test; otherwise, you could be treating the wrong problem. Allergy shots may reduce or slow down your allergy problem and have been shown to give long-term relief in nearly 90 percent of patients, Dr. Bassett notes.

Treat Early

If you use nasal antihistamines, steroids, oral antihistamines, or eye drops for seasonal allergies, don't wait until your symptoms are unbearable to start treatment. "If you see an allergist and get tested, the doctor can quickly individualize treatment, telling you when you should take medications and when to be on pretreatment or allergy alert."

Be In the Know

Make a habit of checking your local allergy levels. Go to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology's National Allergy Bureau for up-to-date pollen counts. You can even sign up for email alerts or download a smartphone app that tracks pollen counts.

Be Shady

Wear oversized sunglasses to block airborne pollens from hitting your eyes. This can help prevent redness and watery eyes.

Accessorize from the top. Wearing a hat—preferably a wide-brimmed one—can help keep pollen and other allergens from landing in your hair and eyes. ***

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Avoid line-drying clothing, especially bed linens. Consider exercising inside, or at least avoiding peak pollen hours -- usually mid-day and afternoon. And get in the habit of taking an evening shower to rid your body of pollen before you go to bed. Change your clothing before you head into your bedroom to keep hitchhiking pollen out of your sleeping area.

Cool It

Avoiding setting up fans that suck air from the outdoors into your home. Instead, use indoor air recirculation. You can set your car air conditioner to recirculate to help, too.

Look for Diet Triggers

As many as one in three seasonal allergy sufferers experience unpleasant cross-reactions when they eat certain foods. For instance, oral allergy syndrome (tingling of the mouth or itchy throat) may set in after eating fresh fruits, carrots, celery, or almonds and hazelnut. It's a cross-reaction between the proteins in fruits and nuts and the pollens. If you experience these symptoms, avoid the trigger foods during allergy season.

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