It’s that time of year again. The weather has started warming up, the sun is shining a bit longer into the day, and you’re dealing with a slew of unpleasant allergy symptoms. Sneezing, a runny or stuffy nose, itchy eyes, and bouts of fatigue are just some of the joys associated with seasonal allergies—and they affect an estimated 40 to 60 Americans, per the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.
One of the worst offenders of seasonal allergies this time of year, of course, is pollen. “Tree pollen is elevated in the spring, whereas grass pollen in the summer and weed pollen in the fall,” says Carla Ward, M.D., allergist and immunologist with the Institute for Asthma and Allergy. “Patients may be allergic to only certain types of pollen and will report symptoms during that time of the year.”
If you’re a seasonal-allergy regular in the springtime and feel like your symptoms are so much worse than years prior, you’re not imagining it. Here, experts share possible reasons why your allergies feel particularly gnarly as the flowers bloom this year—and what you can do about it.
Yes, Your Allergies Really Are Worse This Year
You’re not alone if you’re sneezing and sniffling even more than usual this allergy season. Here’s why experts believe this year is a particularly brutal one.
1. Pollen season is hitting earlier
One major factor contributing to extra-crummy springtime allergies: The pollen season is beginning earlier and earlier, according to a 2022 study published in the journal Nature Communications. In fact, a 2021 study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reported a lengthening of the pollen season by 20 days between the years 1990 and 2018.
The most likely culprit for this early onset of pollen, the study reports, is climate change. “Climate change has led to warmer average temperatures,” says Toronto-based naturopathic doctor Olivia Rose, N.D. “Because of this, flowers start blooming earlier and bloom for longer, which leads to more pollen in the air and worse allergies.”
2. The masks Have Come Off
Last allergy season, many of us spent more time both indoors and wearing a mask (even while outside). This lack of time spent outside mask-free meant a reduction in our exposure to pollen. “Now that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has relaxed mask guidelines, people are suffering from allergies more,” says naturopathic doctor and clinical nutritionist David Friedman, N.D., D.C.
How To Sail Through Springtime
While those colorful flowers may come with extra annoying side effects this year, there are still plenty of things you can do to get through the season more comfortably.
1. Keep doors and windows shut
Even on beautiful days, it’s best to keep your doors and windows closed to reduce your exposure to certain triggers that can set off allergy symptoms, notes Ward. “Keeping doors and windows closed will decrease the amount of pollen in the home.”
2. Switch to bedtime showers
If you usually wake up with a refreshing shower, consider switching your routine around during peak pollen season so that you don’t bring allergy triggers into bed with you. “Showering before bed will reduce the amount of pollen on your skin and hair,” Ward says.
3. Use a HEPA filter
This type of mechanical air filter, which stands for high-efficiency particulate air filter, can remove as much as 99.97 percent of common allergens from your home, including pollen, dust, bacteria, pet dander, and mold smaller than 0.3 microns (which is tiny!).
4. Top your food with local honey
This long-loved natural remedy for seasonal allergies is a sweet, sweet way to get some relief. “Consuming small increments of pollen from local bees helps the body build up a tolerance,” explains Friedman. “This lowers your allergic reaction over time because it slowly builds up the immune system and resistance to future exposure.”
Research, including one study published in the journal Annals of Saudi Medicine that found that honey ingestion can help alleviate symptoms associated with seasonal allergies, backs this up. Your move: Find a local honey beekeeper and slather that sweet golden stuff on toast, drizzle it into tea, or just enjoy it by the spoonful.
5. Sip stinging nettles tea
Natural healing practitioners have been using this leafy plant since ancient times. According to Friedman, this herb offers seasonal comfort by blocking the body’s histamine receptors. An easy way to incorporate its goodness: starting your day with a mug of nettle tea.
6. Try an over-the-counter antihistamine or Homepathic Medicine
If allergy symptoms are really driving you nuts, you can always opt for an over-the-counter allergy medication. “One can start with oral antihistamines to help with itching and a runny nose or try antihistamine eye drops for watery, itchy, or red eyes,” says Ward. “Nasal saline is also helpful in that it flushes pollen from the nose and can reduce mucus.”
Looking for a natural solution? Try Boiron’s RhinAllergy non-drowsy homeopathic medicine.