DENVER (KDVR) — Spring is just around the corner and allergies often come bundled with it.
The spring season officially begins on March 20, but allergists at National Jewish Health in Denver recommend that you start taking allergy medicine right away.
Why you should get ahead of the season change
“Tree pollens are present in the air by March, and nasal steroids take two weeks to reach their peak effect,” Dr. Flavia Hoyte, allergist and immunologist at National Jewish Health, said.
Hoyte said if you wait until you are exposed to pollen to start taking allergy medicine, symptoms may blindside you and you will be left playing catchup.
If you do not get ahead of the allergies before being exposed, symptoms can continue to worsen throughout the season leaving you miserable by summer.
In places like Colorado with a true winter where many trees and plants are dormant, Valentine’s Day is a good day to start taking medicine, Hoyte said.
Hoyte specifically recommended starting nasal steroids to prevent the inflammation that starts in late February and early March.
However, if you live in a warmer climate that has no true winter, such as in the south, you may need to take allergy medicine year-round.
What causes allergies in each season?
Each season has its own causes for allergies, Hoyte said.
In the spring, the main concern for allergies is tree pollen, in the summer it is grass allergies and weed allergies are to blame in the fall.
Hoyte said pollen is flying around even before you notice the change.
“Before the leaves are on the trees, the pollen is flying around,” Hoyte said. “Pollen flies hundreds of miles, so it’s less important what tree is in your front yard. It’s more important the trees that are relevant in your area.”
Climate change may be lengthening allergy seasons
According to National Jewish Health, research has revealed that pollen levels are increasing as climate change causes spring to start earlier and fall to end later.
“With climate change, you may have to [use allergy medicine] a little bit longer in the fall. We usually say until the first hard frost,” Hoyte said.
With longer seasons, a particular tree can make pollen for longer than it did before.
“Then the season lasts maybe a few extra weeks or a few extra months,” Hoyte said.
Extra ways you can limit allergies
There are a few ways to limit your exposure to allergies and help ease symptoms.
For example, you can keep the windows closed in your car and set the air conditioning to not take in air from the outside. On days with a high pollen count, you can close your windows at home and insulate your indoor environment.
“Washing your hands can often help you prevent transferring allergens from your hands to your nose and mouth,” Hoyte also recommended.