Americans are being struck down by a pollen bomb that has hit earlier and harsher than usual. If your allergies have been playing up more than usual, you’re not alone.
A mild winter has caused trees to release pollen prematurely, with the southeastern, mid-Atlantic and northeastern regions all hardest hit.
This year Atlanta, Georgia, recorded its earliest ever ‘extremely high‘ pollen count on March 6, ten days ahead of the previous record.
DailyMail.com spoke to three experts about how to protect yourself against the earlier pollen onslaught.
The above graphic shows the six tips that experts have recommended to help protect yourself against allergies this spring. The season is hitting earlier than usual
The above map shows the leaf index across America up to March 7, 2023. The red color indicates a blooming earlier than normal while blue indicates later than normal. Data shows that across the southeastern and mid-Atlantic United States this is earlier than normal
Estimates suggest as many as 67million Americans have an allergy to pollen, including 14million children.
Some 25million also have asthma, which can be triggered or worsened by pollen.
Experts say that asthma attacks begin to tick up in the spring.
They are worst by Easter when the release of tree pollen overlaps with pollen being released by grass.
Closing windows can keep pollen out of your house or car
Close your windows
Even though milder weather is due to arrive, experts are recommending that people with allergies resist the temptation to open their windows.
Dr Clifford Bassett, the medical director of Asthma and Allergy Care of New York, said this would keep pollen out of the house or car.
He told DailyMail.com: ‘At home or when driving, keep windows closed and set the air conditioner on “re-circulate” to keep out the pollens’.
The windows act as a barrier to pollen entering the house or a vehicle, creating a sort of ‘safe zone’ for sufferers.
Dr Bassett, who is also a spokesman for the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, said to keep cool people should use their airconditioning but ensure to clean the filters recently for the best effects.
He said they shouldn’t use fans because these can suck pollen from outdoors into the living space.
Dr Robert McDermott, an allergist based in Colorado who is also part of the AllerVie Health Network, warned that it was particularly important to keep bedroom windows shut.
‘This is so we are not exposed to pollen as we sleep,’ he told DailyMail.com.
Experts recommend avoiding this because pollen gets on clothing
Don’t dry clothes outside
Many of us hang washing outside in the warmer months rather than piling it high in the laundry room.
But Dr Lewis Ziska, a public health expert at Columbia University in New York, warned allergy sufferers against this.
‘I suffer from asthma myself that is seasonally-induced,’ he told DailyMail.com.
To help avoid any reactions: ‘I don’t hang my clothes out to dry on days when there is a lot of pollen in the air’.
Clothes can become coated in pollen granules released by plants, irritating wearers when it gets into the lungs.
This can lead to never-ending misery for sufferers be it from bed sheets, t-shirts or towels that have become caked in granules.
Shower when you come inside
One of the best ways to keep pollen out of the house is to wash regularly.
Dr Ziska recommended taking a shower when coming inside on warmer days.
This would remove any pollen that you may have unwittingly brought inside and send it straight down the drain.
While outside, microscopic pollen granules can get stuck to the body in between hairs or on fibres in clothes and then be unwittingly brought inside.
To further limit the risk, Dr Ziska also recommended dusting off clothing before coming inside to further protect against pollen.
Track pollen levels
All three experts DailyMail.com spoke to urged people to keep an eye on pollen levels in their area.
This would allow them to take measures to protect themselves, they said, and ensure they are well-stocked on medication.
Dr Bassett recommended that people track pollen levels through the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology’s National Allergy Bureau.
This uses more than 50 counting stations across the country to keep an eye on pollen and mold levels. It informs allergy sufferers of the risks.
Other ways to monitor include via the National Phenology Network, which also keeps an eye on pollen counts.
Inhalers can help when suffering an allergic reaction to pollen
Carry an inhaler
All the experts also recommended that allergy sufferers carry an inhaler.
Allergies to pollen are caused by the immune system overreacting to an innocuous substance — in this case pollen.
It triggers inflammation that causes the airways to tighten restricting airflow and can even lead to a wave of mucus that may block the airways.
To calm this reaction, sufferers are told to puff on inhalers. It is best to always have one as it isn’t clear when allergies may strike.
These normally contain albuterol, a drug that binds to receptors on muscles in the airways, causing them to relax and loosen.
Others may also be offered levalbuterol inhalers, which work in the same way as albuterol.
There are concerns over a shortage of albuterol for hospitals at present, but experts say this should not affect supplies for inhalers.
If you have a pollen allergy, it is best to avoid going outside when it is dry and windy experts said. But you may be better off when it is wet, rainy and still
Don’t go outside when dry and windy
The weather is a key factor in how much pollen may be lurking in the air.
Dr Ziska warned against going outside when it was dry and windy, saying it was ‘really good’ to stay indoors.
At this time the winds will likely have picked up a lot of pollen which could then be breathed in by sufferers, sparking a reaction.
Dr Bassett echoed the advice and said it was best for sufferers to go outside on wet, rainy and still days — as this is when less pollen is in the air.
Asked whether there was a particular time of day that an allergy sufferer should not go outside, experts refuted the suggestion.
Dr Bassett said: ‘Well, they used to say early in the day and late afternoon was worst for allergy sufferers, but I think that’s bogus.
‘If you are an individual who has a history of pollen allergy, then you should utilize something like a simple weather report and the pollen count.’
There are some suggestions green tea may be able to ease allergies
Is there a place for green tea?
Among other suggestions for ways to manage asthma was drinking green tea.
Experts said there was some evidence that this could help reduce allergy symptoms.
But this has not been backed up by large-scale scientific studies.
Dr Bassett said: ‘Studies from Japan support the use of drinking certain green teas which may help reduce seasonal allergy symptoms, at least to some tree pollen, such as cedar.’
Experts suggest green tea may be protective against allergies because it contains quercetin, an anti-inflammatory compound.
It also contains the compound epigallocatechin gallate (ECHG), which can help to block receptors involved in an inflammatory reaction.
What is asthma?
Asthma is a common but incurable condition that affects the small tubes inside the lungs.
It can cause them to become inflamed, or swollen, which restricts the airways and makes it harder to breathe.
The condition affects people of all ages and often starts in childhood. Symptoms may improve or even go away as children grow older, but can return in adulthood.
Symptoms include wheezing, breathlessness, a tight chest and coughing, and these may get worse during an asthma attack.
Treatment usually involves medication that is inhaled to calm down the lungs.
Triggers for the condition include allergies, dust, air pollution, exercise and infections such as cold or flu.
If you think you or your child has asthma you should visit a doctor, because it can develop into more serious complications like fatigue or lung infections.