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Nicole Abendroth

Ease the Sneeze

If tree buds are no friend to you, turn to these allergy facts and tips.

The good news: Spring is right around the corner. The not-so-good news: Along with warmer temperatures and longer days, it’ll also deliver a fresh crop of pollen and mold. If you find yourself battling a runny nose, itchy eyes, and an annoying cough, you’re not alone. More than 50 million Americans deal with seasonal allergies every year. 

So if you want to make the great outdoors a little more great and a little less stuffy this year, here’s what you should know.

What causes allergies?

Every time you breathe, your immune system filters thousands of tiny air particles. When your body senses something potentially threatening, it reacts by sending antibodies throughout your cells that release natural chemicals called histamines.

Those histamines work to stop allergens from entering your body. That includes swelling up your nose and eyes, and forcing sneezes and coughs to remove allergens from your nose and mouth.

Common seasonal allergies

Do you find your allergies flare up at different times of year? You're not imagining it. Allergens come and go with the changing of seasons, which often gives you a couple months here and there to (quite literally) catch your breath.

Here are the most common seasonal allergies and when you're likely to feel their effects

Other “perennial allergies” can bother you throughout the year. They include sensitivities to pet dander, dust mites, and more.

Common Seasonal Allergies

What it is

Tree pollen

When it peaks

March – April

What it is


When it peaks

April – October

What it is

Grass pollen

When it peaks

June – July

What it is


When it peaks

August – November

Make your allergies manageable

  • Track air quality and allergen levels. Pollen and mold spore levels fluctuate day to day, so it’s important to keep an eye on those counts when planning outdoor activities. The weather app on many smartphones may tell you a daily air-quality score. You can also search online for free allergen trackers – like the one you’ll find on the home page of Pollen.com.
  • Shut out pollen. Whenever possible, keep the windows and doors shut in your home or car to seal out allergens.
  • Take cover. Wearing a hat when outdoors and washing your face and hair before bedtime can help ensure you’re not shedding allergens in your home. Try wearing a mask when mowing the lawn or raking leaves — then change clothes once you’re done.
  • Go natural. Consider a homemade saline solution of two cups of hot water and a teaspoon of salt. The idea is to breathe in the salty vapor to help clear your sinuses (just be careful not to burn the inside of your nose in the process).
  • Local honey. Why? Honey is often used to help relieve coughs. On top of that, it has traces of flower pollen, which is an allergen. The idea is to expose yourself to tiny amounts of allergens to help your body adapt.

As always, talk to your doctor before you try any remedy, whether it’s natural or from the drug store.

The bottom line: Allergies affect everyone differently. Your health care provider can offer suggestions on how to manage your allergies, so you can enjoy more of your springtime.

– Nicole Abendroth is a De Pere, Wis.-based freelance writer.