Spring Allergies in the Midwest: Columbus, Ohio
Spring is arriving in Ohio, which means that spring pollen season is also arriving. Some who suffer from allergies have experienced symptoms a little earlier than usual this year. The mild weather of this year likely extended the growing season for spring pollen allergy in Ohio. Mild weather and the warmer ground temperatures in the early spring due to lack of significant freezing or snow this Winter have probably set Ohio up for a long and challenging pollen season.
Spring pollen includes tree and grass pollen. Weeds, such as ragweed do not pollinate until later in the summer. Trees usually begin to pollinate first, in April and May. Some trees pollinate in early spring, while others pollinate more in the middle of the spring. A cold spring during which we continue to have frost, snow, or freezing rain into April may seem to bring a shorter pollen season. During such seasons, trees may not pollinate as heavily in the early spring. In this scenario, many people in Ohio with allergies notice the spring pollen allergy season starts a little later. Still, we can already see that things are starting earlier this year.
Are Spring Allergies Different in the Midwest?
Allergies to tree pollen are in full bloom in the Midwest—and when spring allergy season begins, it comes on fast, according to allergists familiar with the area. “When the tree season comes on, patients go from feeling normal to just being miserable,” said Dr. Don McNeil, who specializes in allergy and immunology at Family Allergy in Columbus, Ohio. The spring allergy season is short—just six to eight weeks—but it can make allergy sufferers highly uncomfortable.
Trees and Allergies
The most common trees to cause spring pollen allergies in Ohio and the Midwest are Birch, Maple, Oak, Sycamore, Hickory, Walnut, Elm, Cottonwood, Ash, and Pine. Many of these trees are prevalent across the Midwest. Tree pollen tends to be more “sticky” than other pollen. Because “sticky” pollen may adhere to the eyes more readily, tree pollen is notorious for causing eye problems, such as itchy and puffy swollen eyes. Tree pollen often causes people to have nasal symptoms such as runny nose, itchy nose, sneezing, congestion, sinus or ear infections, or even asthma symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, or shortness of breath.
Other Allergens in the Midwest
McNeil says allergy season can be heightened by the fact that many people with pollen allergies also have mold allergies. The moist warm weather that marks spring encourages mold growth. That means mold allergies are on the rise at the same time as tree pollen.
Grass pollen typically predominates from mid-May through June in central Ohio. The fluffy, white cottonwood seed that begins to float in the air in May often marks the onset of the grass season.
Although that makes spring allergies worse in this area, McNeil said moving to another region rarely brings long-term relief. “If you are prone to having allergies, you may move to a new area and be free of your symptoms initially,” he said. “After a year or two, you become sensitized to the allergens in the new place.”
If you want to be able to spend time outside, pollen is unfortunately not avoidable. “Some patients benefit from bathing before bed, to remove any pollen that may have attached to their skin or hair during the day,” McNeil said.
In the early morning, pollen rises, so McNeil advises patients to keep their windows closed overnight. It may help patients’ allergy symptoms to keep windows and doors closed as much as possible throughout the day. This will keep pollen counts close to zero inside during the spring pollen allergy Ohio season.
Medications and Treatments
McNeil says it is important for people suffering from allergies to find a local allergist who is board-certified in allergy and immunology to help find the proper medications and treatment. Many medications used for pollen allergy are now available over-the-counter. Non-sedating or “non-drowsy” antihistamines may often provide relief. Most of these antihistamines are now available over the counter. Eye allergy symptoms, especially during tree pollen season, may require antihistamine eye drops, which are also available over the counter. Nasal corticosteroid sprays are now also available over the counter. These nasal sprays often take at least one to two weeks of daily use to alleviate symptoms, so they are usually more effective for pollen allergy if taken regularly during seasons when you anticipate nasal allergy symptoms to occur. Saline sprays and sinus saline rinse preparations such as sinus rinse bottles or neti pots are also helpful in clearing and decongesting the nasal passages. If you routinely suffer from spring allergies, it may help start medications a week or two before spring starts.
Unfortunately, some people have recurrent problems with allergies and do not fully benefit from the above therapies. Others take medications with fair relief, but over time, year after year, they continue to need medications. Some people may experience side effects from different allergy medications. In these situations, a board-certified allergist may be able to help prevent or “fix” their allergy problem with allergen immunotherapy, also known as allergy shots. “Avoid people who are practicing allergy but don’t specialize in it,” said McNeil. Some practitioners profit from placing patients on a repeating regimen of allergy shots, he said.
Immunotherapy is a very effective therapy that aims to desensitize a person to allergens. While shots are often effective for safely building up a tolerance to allergens, patients should be evaluated regularly and moved to a maintenance program when the effective dose has been reached, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Our board-certified allergists are specially trained to diagnose and treat allergic conditions in patients of all ages.
Find Relief atFamily Allergy & Asthma
Please do not hesitate to contact us for a consultation if you need more help with your allergies this spring pollen allergy Ohio season. Our board-certified allergists are always here to help!