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What's Weather Got To Do With It?

How weather changes may be affecting your allergies and sinuses
By Melissa Robinson, DO

If you suffer from seasonal allergies, you’re no stranger to the classic symptoms, such as a stuffy or runny nose, itchy, watery eyes and increased pressure in your sinuses. During allergy seasons, typically in the fall and spring, changes in the weather can impact your health. Periods of increased heat, humidity or rain can lead to more frequent or severe allergy symptoms. Allergist, Melissa Robinson, DO, shares the effects the weather can have on your asthma or allergies and how you can reduce symptoms.

Common weather changes that impact asthma and allergies include:

Warm Temperatures

Historically, pollen season lasted between 3 and 14 days on average. Over the last few decades, pollen seasons in the United States have averaged between 11 and 27 days and start earlier in the year. These longer allergy seasons have been caused in part by changes in weather patterns, including rising temperatures. Warmer weather can extend the growing seasons, increasing the number of allergens and pollution circulating in the air. This increase leads to more frequent and severe allergy symptoms and/or asthma attacks.

Elevated Carbon Dioxide Levels

As temperatures rise, so do carbon dioxide (CO2) levels. When exposed to warmer temperatures and higher levels of CO2, plants often grow faster, producing more pollen than usual. The increased pollen intensifies symptoms for asthma and allergy sufferers.

Increased Humidity

High levels of humidity can cause the air to feel heavier and make it more difficult to breathe, especially if you have asthma. Additionally, mold and dust mites thrive in humid weather, which worsens the overall air quality. When humidity levels are high in your home, mold can develop in damp areas like laundry rooms or bathrooms. When humidity levels are at 50 percent or higher, dust mites begin to multiply. You can reduce humidity levels indoors by using an air conditioner or dehumidifier.

Rain and dampness

You may be surprised to learn that rain can help those with an allergy to pollen. During dry seasons, trees release more pollen. With less moisture in the air to weigh down the pollen, the spores are able to travel further and more easily. Periods of light, steady rain also help wash away pollen, reducing the amount circulating in the air.

However, it’s not all good news when it comes to rain. For those who are allergic to grass, weeds, dust and mold, heavier rainfall can break the allergens up into smaller particles, allowing them to spread through the air more easily. 

Frost and freezing temperatures

Although the shift to colder weather isn’t always welcomed by all, for allergy sufferers, it often signals the end of the allergy season. Even a moderate freeze (25° to 28°F) lasting for a few hours can destroy ragweed and other pollen and mold-producing spores.

 

When weather changes cause asthma attacks or allergies to flare up, you can minimize your exposure and reduce the severity of your symptoms by:  

Talking to your doctor

Your doctor can recommend over-the-counter and prescription-strength allergy medications to treat your specific allergens and symptoms. You doctor can also provide helpful tips on reducing your exposure and how you can prevent allergy and asthma attacks from developing.

Checking weather reports

Local weather channels and certain weather apps share real-time allergy and air quality information for your area. When air quality is poor and allergy levels are high, you should limit the amount of time you spend outdoors and keep your windows shut.

Keeping your home pollen-free

You can prevent the spread of allergens throughout your home by removing shoes (and leaving them by the door), changing your clothes and/or washing your pets after being outside and showering before bed to remove lingering pollen from your hair and body.

If you experience more frequent and/or severe asthma attacks or allergy flare-ups, an allergist can help you to develop a treatment plan to manage your symptoms. To learn more about our Allergy, Asthma and Immunology physicians, or to schedule an appointment, visit www.dupagemedicalgroup.com/services/asthma-allergy.



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