Spring is allergy season, and for millions of Americans, symptoms like sneezing, wheezing and itchy, watery eyes are about to bloom. But if you're trying to figure out what is causing your flare-up, Mother Nature could be to blame.
Weather can take a surprising toll on daily pollen counts, and as a result, allergies. While you can’t change the weather, you can wield its unpredictability to your advantage. On certain days, it may be wise to adjust your schedule -- and spend more time indoors -- based on the forecast. On others, you can kick back outside until sundown.
Here are five surprising ways weather can affect your allergies.
RAIN CAN HELP WITH POLLEN ALLERGIES
The song "Rain, Rain, Go Away," may not ring true for people with pollen allergies.
While you may expect rain to make plants grow, producing more pollen, this is not the case. According to the Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America, a steady rain can wash pollen away, keeping it from flying through the air. Because moisture is heavy, the humidity that follows helps keep grains down too.1
While a drizzle is good for getting rid of pollen, rain is actually not good for people with dust or mold allergies. That's because, according to the AFAA, moisture makes mold spores and dust grow since they thrive in damp conditions.2 To combat this, stay inside during rain, and indoors, lower your indoor humidity or use a dehumidifier.
As you may have deduced, while rain is pollen's enemy, dry windy weather is its friend. And as a result, not yours. During dry days, trees can actually release more pollen. That's because there is less moisture in the air to weigh down pollen grains. Not only is more pollen released, but because of the wind, those grains travel further. So if you think you're getting a flare-up on a blustery day, it may not be a coincidence.
That being said, continuing dry weather, like a drought, is good for your allergies because it kills vegetation.3
A late freeze in the year -- or prolonged cold weather -- is good for allergy sufferers. This is because flowers start to grow later in the year, producing lower pollen counts. Also, a hard freeze will lower the production of mold spores because colder weather means less humidity.
We’ve been seeing fewer “late freezes,” unfortunately, as climate change increases.
“The warm season is getting longer, which means earlier outbreaks and a longer allergy season,” said Paul Walsh, Director of Weather Strategy for IBM.
And finally, here's something that may explain bad allergies you've been having this year too: Large temperature swings can also increase a person's sensitivity to allergens.
According to Dr. Clifford Bassett, founder and medical director at Allergy and Asthma Care of New York, when temperatures make big leaps in small periods of time, like going form 25 degrees to 55 degrees in a day is "when people really start to suffer." The constantly changing and highly varied temperatures cause your body to "[rev] up the immune system and further on down the road, you're going to be even more hyper-sensitive or hyperactive to the new pollen."
- How Does Rain Affect Pollen Levels? Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America website. https://community.aafa.org/blog/how-does-rain-affect-pollen-levels. Accessed February 15, 2018
- Mold Allergy. Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America website. http://www.aafa.org/page/mold-allergy.aspx. Accessed February 15, 2018. Accessed February 15, 2018
- How Weather Impacts Spring Allergies. The Weather Company website. https://weather.com/health/allergy/news/how-weather-impacts-spring-allergies. Accessed February 15, 2018