You're Not Imagining It: Here's Why Allergy Season Is Worse This Year

Tissues becoming even more of a MVP in your life? We're right there with you.

The essential leaving-home checklist: Face mask. Wallet. Phone. Water bottle. Hand sanitizer. Keys. And now a pack of tissues.

If you, too, are sniffling like crazy—and have been since around February—you're not alone. Allergy season is getting stronger and longer, and more pollen is circulating in the air. New research published earlier this year in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) hints to a cause of this trend: Due to climate change, pollen season was 20 days longer in 2018 than it was in 1990, and pollen concentrations across the U.S. jumped 21 percent over the same 28-year timespan. More pollen might be more potent—and more allergenic, the scientists say.

The warmer climate is "the dominant driver of changes in pollen season length and a significant contributor to increasing pollen concentrations. Our results indicate that human-caused climate change has already worsened North American pollen seasons, and climate-driven pollen trends are likely to further exacerbate respiratory health impacts in coming decades," the study authors say.

young woman suffering spring allergy and blowing nose with a tissue in the nature
Getty Images / Raquel Arocena Torres

While we may have felt like pollen season was less severe last year due to stay-at-home orders and face mask wearing (which has been proven to limit exposure to airborne allergens), the general trajectory is toward worse and longer allergy seasons.

"This is clearly a more severe allergy season than we've had in a long time," Dr. Stanley M. Fineman, an allergist and immunologist at Atlanta Allergy & Asthma and past president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI), tells Healthline. "We're seeing a lot of patients complaining of more symptoms and not being able to deal with them with the over-the-counter medications available. That's due to it getting warmer earlier and a longer and more potent pollen season."

So what can those with seasonal allergies do—besides try to lower our own carbon footprints and impact on the environment? Experts at the ACAAI recommend the following strategies to reduce exposure to potential allergens:

  • Check the daily pollen count and try to reduce time outside during high-pollen days.
  • Keep windows closed during pollen season, if possible.
  • Shower and change clothes after spending time outdoors.
  • Wear sunglasses, a hat and a face mask (yep, the same style you've been wearing to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 might help!) when outside to keep more pollen away from your eyes, hair, nose and mouth.
  • Talk to your doctor about starting your allergy medicines earlier in the season—about 2 weeks before you usually have symptoms—if you take them.
  • Ask your doctor if you might be a good candidate to consider allergy shots.

And if all else fails, keep these 5 expert-approved strategies to help you get through allergy season top of mind.

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