Winter blues setting in? Dreaming of springtime? Well, the wait is almost over! March is a week away, and that means Spring is on its way! Longer days, long walks in the garden, and rain showers and rainbows are on the horizon. The meteorological calendar says spring begins March 1st, but the astronomical calendar says spring begins on the vernal equinox, which this year is March 20th! Regardless of which calendar you follow, tree pollen, the main culprit of the sniffles and sneezes during spring allergy season, is already starting to make an appearance!

Trees typically start producing pollen as early as January in the Southern U.S., and the Northern and Central areas follow with pollen production sometime in February. However, one outlier, the Ashe Juniper Tree (commonly referred to as Mountain Cedar) wreaks havoc in Oklahoma and Texas as early as December. Many trees keep producing pollen through June. The milder the winter season, the earlier the trees will begin producing pollen. Even late winter or early spring snowfall leads to pollen production by producing copious amounts of moisture when it melts which allows a greater volume of pollen production.

Pollen is a small powdery substance made up of small spores that come from male trees and flowers. There are two primary types of pollen, the first is “Sticky Pollen”. This pollen is produced by plants and trees that have bright and attractive flowers. This kind of pollen is the type that sticks to bees and is transported during flight, fertilizing other plants. These bright flowers are commonly thought to be spring allergy offender, however because they do not release much pollen into the air they are not as likely the culprit of allergy symptoms. The other type of pollen, however, is “Wind-Blown Pollen”. This pollen comes from larger trees like pine and oak. The pollen is released in large quantities into the air, fertilizing other trees of the same species. The tree pollen that typically causes the well-known nasal congestion, runny nose, and itchy eyes is typically the wind-blown pollen. This pollen is very small and light, and easily spread by the wind for miles and miles.

Those that suffer from allergies, can benefit from checking their local pollen counts, to determine the density of pollen in the air on any given day. Pollen counts are determined collecting pollen on special rods. The pollen is then counted under a microscope. The pollen count is then calculated in grains per cubic meter of air. Pollen counts tend to be the highest early in the day, or often when the wind picks up just before a large rainstorm. If you like dancing in the rain, or jumping in rain puddles, however, you are in luck because during a rainstorm and immediately following, pollen becomes still and dormant due to the rain making it damp and heavy. As the air becomes warm and dry following the storm, the pollen count will become potent again.

Those with tree pollen allergies should try to avoid heavily dense wooded areas, especially in early spring when pollen is the most dense and abundant. Also, those with tree pollen allergies should give careful thought into which trees they are planting this year in their yards. Major tree offenders that should be skipped over at the nursery are oak, birch, maple, cedar, juniper, and eucalyptus (unless you can guarantee they are female trees). Instead, look for friendlier species such as dogwood, pear, plum, redbud, or crape myrtle.

Pollen counts are never zero, nor will an allergy sufferer truly be able to avoid tree pollen in the spring. However, some practices like utilizing the air conditioner and keeping the windows and doors of their home and car closed and utilizing the dryer rather than the fresh breeze to dry clothing will help to decrease pollen exposures. Also, wearing of some masks will help to minimize the amount of pollen reaching the nasal passages if being worn in outdoor settings. Tree pollen allergy suffers should also make a habit of changing their clothes after coming in from being outdoors, and bathing prior to getting into bed/laying on upholstered furniture.

If someone is unsure whether tree pollen is a trigger for their spring nasal congestion, runny nose, post nasal drip, sneezing, and itchy watery eyes, seeing their provider for an allergy test may provide the clarity they are looking for. And you do not need to wait until spring! Now is the perfect time for allergy testing, BEFORE spring season is in full force.
If you are currently experiencing itching eyes, coughing, sneezing, runny nose, or congestion, your provider won’t leave you out in the cold! There is no better way to beat the winter blues by planning ahead for a great spring! A spring free of the burden of allergies! Whether you are currently suffering from winter allergies, or wanting to get a jump on spring allergy symptom prevention, typically this time of year providers can get you in quickly. If you are unsure if allergies are the cause of your symptoms, needleless allergy testing an offer an accurate diagnosis within minutes in the office. There are certain medications that should be temporarily avoided so that the results of the allergy test will be accurate. Make sure to talk to your provider prior to scheduling your allergy test visit to learn about which medications you may need to hold. Many symptom controlling allergy medications typically need avoided prior to allergy skin testing and so getting tested now before spring allergy symptoms are in full swing is helpful! Consider getting tested now, before symptoms are in full force and the thought of withholding medications that get you temporarily through the day seems impossible.
And whether an allergy diagnosis is brand new, or you are a long time suffering allergy veteran, your provider can also develop an individualized treatment plan, such as immunotherapy. Allergen immunotherapy can reduce or eliminate your need for medications.

Allergy is a chronic or long-term condition. Many allergy patients forget what it feels like to be well or symptom free. Allergen immunotherapy unlike medications is a natural long-term way to both treat and prevent allergies. This benefits you in symptom control and feeling better, but even more importantly in preventing the development of other allergies or asthma. Medications on the other hand are used for short-term symptom reduction rather than prevention or long term treatment. Many people, including children, also suffer side effects, some life threatening from these medications.