It’s one of the worst allergy seasons due to a pollen surge: what can you do?

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This story came out in People Magazine a couple of weeks ago, but I was thinking about it the other morning when I woke up at 3 with burning, watery eyes. I was being lazy and had worn the same clothes to bed that I’d worn the day before. I also hadn’t showered that day because I hadn’t worked out. I remembered this article and realized there were things I could do to prevent and treat my allergies before it got that bad. Some of the tips here are simple and may seem obvious, but they really helped me, specifically taking a shower and changing my clothes. There’s more here too about treating allergies before they get too painful.

“It’s going to be a pollen surge this year, because in the Northeast and throughout the country, we had lots and lots of winter precipitation, which primes the pump as far as the root systems on trees and pollinating plants. And on top of that now we have some warming weather,” [NY-based allergist Dr. Clifford Bassett] says. “So they’re ready to release their pollen.”

In most of the U.S. — but particularly the Northeast — springtime tree pollen is the first to hit, followed by grass pollen. “That goes right into the summer, and we are immediately stuck with weed pollen, mold spores during the summer as humidity heats up, and then finally towards the mid to the end of the season ragweed pollen, which takes you all the way through with some of the weeds and molds until the first frost,” Bassett says.

As the pollen count rises, Bassett says the first step is to prepare the nose with allergy medications. He advises working with an allergist to determine the best types for your specific triggers.

“Proactive care reduces needless symptoms, reduces the amount of medications, and many times in my patient population, more than a third of the time, I can actually prevent early symptoms before they even begin,” he says. Often, over-the-counter antihistamines will work well, as long as they are taken long before you step outside.

“If you wait until you have extreme nasal symptoms, such as severe congestion or swelling inside the nasal passages, people will think that they need to switch medications. And it fact, it’s really not that your antihistamine isn’t working, it’s that you didn’t start early enough with your allergy treatment.”

Along with medications, there are a few practices that can minimize allergy symptoms. Bassett recommends getting a HEPA air filter for your home, as well as not drying clothes outside, where they can pick up pollen.

And don’t forget your fashion accessories. “One of my tips is to be a star — oversized, wraparound sunglasses can block the airborne pollen from entering your eyes and eyelids and cause redness, watery eyes or puffiness,” he says. Bassett also suggests wearing a hat, as well as staying away from hair gels that can trap pollen.

“And when you go back home at night, wash your hair to try and remove some of the excess pollen, because otherwise it goes right on the pillowcase,” he says. “Some people even try not to change their clothing in the bedroom.”

Masks are also helping people keep out the pollen, along with keeping out COVID-19. “We’re finding that most masks actually prevent pollen from entering the nose,” he says.

[From People]

I was completely miserable the morning I couldn’t sleep, which was Friday. I slogged through work and then realized I could just take a shower and change. I also washed my sheets. During allergy season I take sudafed as it doesn’t make me drowsy, but I switched to Zyrtec. Some of my friends are recommending Flonase as well. I just ordered this HEPA air filter we featured on an Amazon post in January. Plus, and this is going to sound obvious, but I also changed the duct filters in my house. Last night I was horrified to look up at my bedroom ceiling and realize that there was a huge vent up there with a filter I hadn’t noticed before. I lived in this house for a year and can’t believe I didn’t see it before! Oh and I clean my nose with a squirt bottle thing, from NeilMed, but a neti pot would work also. I always use distilled water as I don’t want to get an amoeba in my brain. For everyone who suffers from allergies, I hope you get some relief this season!

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Photos credit: Andrea Piacquadio and Gustavo Fring on Pexels, Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

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44 Responses to “It’s one of the worst allergy seasons due to a pollen surge: what can you do?”

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  1. TheOriginalMia says:

    I’m taking Benadryl every night and Ibuprofen during the day for headaches. I’m miserable.

    • Agirlandherdog says:

      My dr told me I could take ceterizine (generic zyrtec – MUCH cheaper) in the morning and benadryl at night before bed. It’s not a perfect system. I still get a lot of sinus drainage, but I also have to wonder how bad it would be if I *wasn’t* taking them. I also use a netipot every night. We were at the beach this weekend (no trees, no grass), and I felt so much better. Get home last night, and within hours, my throat is already swelling and hurting from all the drainage funk.

      I never even thought about pollen from my hair getting on my bedding. Total facepalm moment. I only wash my hair twice a week, so that just makes it so much worse.

    • Betsy says:

      If it’s histamine headaches, take a loratidine every morning. This was absolutely life altering information for me when a pharmacist friend finally put two and two together for me. I no longer have daily headaches.

      Reducing sugar intake really, really helped me, too. I am guessing since it’s inflammatory that it just feeds the inflammation cycle.

      (Also years of taking ibuprofen that often absolutely wrecked my stomach.)

    • amilou says:

      My mom (who’s taking care of my grandfather with dementia) just reminded me that diphenhydramine (Benadryl) might be linked to dementia. :/ So now I’m in research mode for alternate treatments.

  2. ABC says:

    I have had allergies since over 30 years, but this year it’s so much worse, even here in Central Europe.

    • IMUCU says:

      I’ve never had allergies, but this year it got to me. I have had an ear infection for over 3 weeks, my left ear feels so muffled and full, but the weird thing is I haven’t really had much congestion. Maybe a few minutes here and there, about 1x a day, nothing that bother me or caused me to pay attention until my ears started acting up. Now after 2 rounds of antibiotics, nasal spray, antihistamine, decongestant, warm compresses, and saline, I’ve still not made much headway, the sinus pressure right there at the ears just doesn’t want to budge, even though I have no nasal congestion now. I’m finally considering going to an ENT and allergist.

  3. Bonnie says:

    I have horrible allergies too! Right now, I’m taking my over-the-counter allergen medicine twice a day, doing an eye drop, and a nasal spray.

    I don’t know if this will help anyone but I swear by this tea. It has saved me many times and I’ve shared it with tons of people who now use it religiously. It gets spendy fast but it really is worth it.

    https://www.modernsteep.com/006-relief/

    I see you, my fellow allergy afflicted friends. 💗

  4. Soni says:

    I have been a walking zombie since March 12th. My eyes are constantly burning, itching and painful. I have no energy because my immune system is so down. I started showering at night and changing my sheets more often. Also, I’m not allowing my dogs on my bed any more. Ugh!!!

    • Mac says:

      Try Alaway eyedrops. They are over the counter and they make a huge difference for me.

      • Soni says:

        I will- thanks!!

      • lucy2 says:

        Alaway drops work well for me too. I rarely get the itchy eyes so I don’t use it often, but t does help. My eyes were burning the other day!

        Being home with my cats all the time is tough too, usually I’m away at work all day, and now I’m working from home and my fuzziest one wants to sit with me all day.

    • Agirlandherdog says:

      OMG the dogs! I’m facepalming again!

  5. Case says:

    Flonase is great! I need it when I get congested and have that awful post-nasal drip. I take Zyrtec year-round.

    This really is one of the worse allergy seasons in recent memory. I’m usually worst in autumn (asthma flares that time of year for me), but wow, I’ve been a mess the last few weeks. I’ve never seen my eyes look so irritated in my life, and I’ve been using drops.

  6. Liz version 700 says:

    This year is bad. I do like Flonase and I use Claritin. But when I step outside my eyes just burn. I have a small helps filter machine in my room by my bed and it is a huge help.

  7. MJM says:

    Been experiencing bad allergic rhinitis for 3 years and it’s pollen for sure. Started up again a week ago so take Claritin every day plus Flonase when needed. It is a constant battle. I also have to have my child change her clothes when she gets home from school or I’ll get triggered it’s that bad. Thanks for posting the tips!

  8. Lauren says:

    I have been feeling super miserable here in Italy. Last year and this year are killing me. I have a HEPA air filter in my bedroom and when I start feeling my eyes a bit tight and start touching my nose I know that it is time to retreat in my room and close the door and not let anyone in. The air filter has helped greatly and also the face masks, but every once in a while I do need Claritin to push through my day.

  9. Kristen820 says:

    This allergy season is gonna be painful – I was so raspy on Friday I couldn’t even sing Janis Joplin! Janis. Freaking. Joplin.

    Let that sink in…

  10. Leah says:

    Run the purifiers. Vacuum every three days with a mask on and take allergy meds. I usually take loratadine which is basically Claritin but without the sticker shock. Works the same, $6/30 while the name brand is $20/30. Also I use vicks sinex and alaway if things get really extra like they did last night when I couldn’t stop sneezing. Alaway is amazing when your eyes feel like they just want to walk away from your face because they are itching/red/burning from the allergens.

    My building is an absolute magnet for dust, even the people on the first floor get a layer of dust a few days after dusting. I have two purifiers to try to stay on top of the allergens but they still creep in.

  11. Becks1 says:

    Flonase is the BEST but you are only supposed to take it for a certain period of time – I think two weeks max? I would have to check my bottle – and then take a break from it. I dont use it every day, just when I wake up and can feel the stuffiness, but I guess maybe I should try it for the two weeks or whatever, regardless if I think I need it, and see how it helps.

    Zyrtec also works wonders for me but it does completely knock me out. I have to take it around 7pm if I want a chance of getting up by 6 or 7 the next morning. I’ve started just taking a half dose of it and that seems to help, not as much as the full pill obviously but without the drowsiness. I also will take a half pill of Claritin sometimes during the day, that doesnt usually make me sleepy.

  12. K says:

    Benadryl at night and Allegra. Don’t miss a dose.

  13. Coz' says:

    It’s funny because I was thinking this morning that I hadn’t had any allergies yet. I am usually miserable from April to June. I guess grass pollen has not reached yet where I live.
    When it starts I will shower twice a day and rinse my hair every night. That’s the only way I can survive.

  14. FancyHat says:

    This explains why I feel so terrible. I was googling if it was possible to get mono twice. I feel like shit and get such medication hangovers from allergy medications that I can’t take anything other than Nasal spray

  15. BearcatLawyer says:

    I am super allergic to pollen, but this year has not been nearly as bad for me as other years for two reasons: 1) the cold snap in February resulted in a lot of dead trees and plants and many people have drastically cut back/dug up their gardens but cannot get replacement plants yet; and 2) wearing a double mask and sunglasses outdoors really seems to minimize my exposure nicely. I may keep wearing masks even after the pandemic is over if I can avoid sneezing, wheezing, and sniffling for days on end!

    • liz says:

      Same! So much the same! I went through the year without a head cold that turned into bronchitis and I haven’t had a bad allergy season so far. Yes, I shower at night, but I’m convinced that wearing masks means I’m not inhaling pollen the way I used to. It’s going to be a long time before I give up wearing a mask.

    • Chaine says:

      I live in a less-masks state so I do get glares walking around at the park in a mask—I guess outdoors is MAGA sacred space where masks shouldn’t be seen—but I don’t care as it’s a great pollen barrier.

      • liz says:

        On Twitter over the weekend, there was a woman going off on people wearing masks in Central Park. EVERYTHING in the park is in bloom right now. The pollen levels are off the charts. Hell, yes, I am wearing a mask in the park (and yes, they are still required here).

  16. lucy2 says:

    OMG mine are terrible. I took a day off and was at a beautiful outdoor place on Friday, and felt sick the rest of the weekend, burning eyes and coughing. I take Claritin daily, and used Flonase before I went.
    I was getting allergy shots but that got interrupted by the pandemic, and I haven’t been able to resume them yet. Hopefully it helps, I get horrible, debilitating sinus headaches from allergies.

    • Watson says:

      I believe Flonase works best of you take it cumulatively. It takes about a week to kick in effectively so taking it once will not cut it.

      • Sigmund says:

        Yeah, that’s been my experience (anecdotal, I know). Flonase usually takes a day or longer for me to feel the effects.

  17. Size Does Matter says:

    It feels like Benadryl is the only thing that helps me. I’d rather be sleepy than clawing my eyes out. Does anyone know if it takes a couple of weeks to see results from Claritin or Allegra? Maybe I didn’t try long enough.

  18. Muggs says:

    I always feel like a dirty hippie recommending it but honey really has helped for me. I pick up a jar from the farmers market and do a teaspoon in the AM & PM when things are really bad and drop down to a teaspoon once a day a few times a week in my tea when it’s off season. I was a twice a week allergy shot person as a kid and I refuse to go back to that now so I was just making do with anything OTC, now I pretty much only need meds at the peak. I know it’s not going to work for everyone but it was a huge game changer for me.

  19. Watson says:

    I cannot stress enough, shower after you come home and dump all of your outside clothes into the wash. The moment you step outside you expose all of your clothes etc to pollen and you don’t want that shit on your bed or in your house! The showers remove it from your hair and body.

  20. Jess says:

    I’ve never had an issue with allergies even living in a valley in the south that sometimes gets a yellow haze over the sky because of so much pollen, but I walked outside yesterday and felt like I couldn’t get a deep breath in without choking, so I know y’all are miserable. We’re seeing a lot of patients dealing with it right now, and it’s finally more sinus crud than covid so that makes me hopeful in a way.

    We prescribe a lot of Flonase, Zyrtec, Claritin, and old faithful Benadryl at night. Change it up if you think it’s not working as well as it should!!

    • Liz version 700 says:

      That is a great point! I have to change my allergy meds every 4-5 years as my body gets used to them. I will rotate Allegra, Claryjn and Zyrtec and I do Flonase. When things are really desperate I will do the nettie pot but OMG I hate that thing.

  21. Imara219 says:

    I don’t know if it’d a Southern cultural thing or not but the rule of thumb I was taught especially from my grandmother was that outside clothes were to be changed and switched out when you got home. Outside clothes should not be worn when you “relax” or sit anywhere at home. I changd clothes pretty immediately when going home but this allergy season has been the worst.

    • BeanieBean says:

      Makes sense to me. I did fieldwork in Georgia for six years & no way did my tick-riddled field clothes get anywhere near the interior of my house.

  22. Onerous says:

    I finally found a system that works and I feel amazing after suffering for years.

    I take Zyrtec, use Flonase AND just added Pataday eye drops. The eye drops changed my whole life, I swear. Instead of feeling like I just want to close my eyes, I feel *almost* like I don’t have allergies at all!

  23. Anonymous says:

    Prescription azelastine nasal spray and OTC olopatadine (Pataday) drops are a miracle for me, but i also take fexofenadine (Allegra). The antihistamine nasal sprays work MUCH faster than the steroids like flonase and nasacort – think 15-30 minutes instead of 2-3 days.

  24. Trufflefries says:

    I’m 7.5 months pregnant to boot and the last few weeks have been horrible for me. I can’t take Flonase which usually works but I did find relief with Afrin. Claratin did not help and zyrtec only knocked me out enough to get a good night’s sleep but did nothing else during the daytime. I’d normally just bunker down indoors but my toddler needs out door time. I’m wearing a mask in my own backyard but it’s really helping!

  25. Emily_C says:

    Florida’s always bad for allergies when the rainy season starts again, but it’s been HORRIBLE this year. Even though it’s still cool enough to have the windows open for the cats, we do not, because it was making me so sick. I feel bad for them, but one of them also has allergies and was sneezing with the windows open, so it’s for the best for everyone. But I’m going through Kleenex like crazy. We’re also having to dust and sweep every day.

  26. Mollie says:

    I’ve been doing a Zyrtec Flonase combo. It has been working well.

  27. Truthiness says:

    High grade hepa, zyrtec or comparable, shower often, and I take vitamin C along with Cal/Mag. The vitamins are synergistic and somehow dial back reactions for me to something manageable. Washing pets, throw rugs and bedding helps.