What to know about spring allergy season in Delaware: Causes, treatment and what to avoid

What to know about spring allergy season in Delaware: Causes, treatment and what to avoid

Seasonal allergies are flaring up for many people, and some say their allergies are worse than in years past.

As vegetation flourishes, with a surplus of pollen in its wake, and outdoor exposure amps up, you might be stuck with a runny nose, scratchy throat or irritated eyes.

We set out to find if this year’s allergy season may be supercharged:

Why your allergies may seem worse this year

While some may feel the current allergy season is more intense than usual, the real culprit is the duration of allergen exposure and a lack of preparation for it, said Dr. Greg Marcotte, an allergist at ENT & Allergy of Delaware and allergy section chief at ChristianaCare.

“The mild winter probably plays a big role, but the main thing is the earlier spring. The pollen season is more intense. Spring is longer,” Marcotte said. “That’s probably going to be a trend over the decades to come of longer and worse pollen seasons.”

Delaware’s seasonal allergy season typically runs from March (when trees start to bloom) to October (when molds emerge after the rainy season), but as climate change results in earlier springs, the allergy season will be earlier and longer, too.

“When pollen is really high and people are really sensitive, the one thing that bothers them more than other years is their eyes,” Marcotte said. “Another thing that is really problematic for patients is when their asthma gets affected.”

The onset of seasonal allergy symptoms as a result of pollen is something Marcotte believes will continue to get worse unless we take a look at how our actions are contributing to the climate crisis and do something about it, he said.

Delaware allergens to be aware of

Some of the most common seasonal allergens in Delaware, according to Wyndly, include:

  • Amaranth
  • Aspen trees
  • Bent grass
  • Cedar trees
  • Hickory trees
  • Mulberry trees
  • Oak
  • Orchard grass
  • Pigweed
  • Ragweed
  • Sweet vernal grass
  • Timothy grass
  • Walnut trees
  • Wormwood

Common seasonal allergy symptoms

Some of the most common seasonal allergy symptoms, according to Wyndly, include:

  • Aggravated asthma symptoms
  • Congestion
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Painful sinuses
  • Post-nasal drip
  • Rash or hives
  • Runny nose.
  • Sneezing
  • Watery and itchy eyes

How to prevent allergy flare-ups

Whether it’s pollen-producing trees in the spring, grass pollen and ragweed in the summer or weeds and molds in the fall, the best way to steer clear of allergies is avoiding allergens and keeping your space clean.

After 26 years of practice, Marcotte said a tried-and-true method for avoiding allergies is to familiarize yourself with the allergens in your area to anticipate what parts of the season may be worse for you and prepare accordingly.

If you need to do yard work, wearing an N-95 mask — which many of us stocked up on during the pandemic or to avoid recent air pollution from the Canadian wildfires — will decrease pollen exposure.

“Pollen is much bigger than the COVID virus. That works really well,” Marcotte said.

Getting rid of pesky allergy-inducing plants and weeds around your home will help somewhat, but pollen can travel for miles, meaning you can still be impacted by trees, grasses, flowers and other allergens from neighboring areas.

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To mitigate this, Marcotte said simple actions like decreasing outdoor exposure, turning the A/C on and keeping outdoor air out, keeping windows closed, and showering before bed after spending time outdoors will limit your interactions with pollen.

Allergy remedies

If your allergies still end up driving you crazy, do not wait until symptoms get severe before exploring other options.

Marcotte said non-pharmacologic drugs such as saline eye drops and nasal sprays; over-the-counter medicines like antihistamine eye drops, pills and nose sprays that are nonsedating; and prescription remedies and medication from health care providers are all resources helpful when it comes to allergy relief.

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Allergists can provide allergy testing to help you identify what you’re allergic to and guide you as to what to do, offering a more tailored treatment plan during problematic seasons.

Allergy sufferers also can opt for allergy shots — also referred to as immunotherapy — to provide individualized, long-term treatment.

Allergy shots can “turn off” allergies for long periods of time by administering a small dose of the specific allergen that triggers a reaction in someone. This boosts the body’s tolerance to the allergen without stimulating the immune system enough to cause a reaction, Marcotte said.

For those of you with a fear of needles, allergy drops and tablets are offered as another treatment option.

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