Summertime and the living need not be sneezy

The pollen of Timothy grass is a common allergen in DuPage County.

We welcome summer but perhaps not its allergy issues. Predominant pollens vary across the country, so if you are new to the area, you may notice a “cold” that doesn’t leave—a runny nose and itchy eyes might be among the symptoms—as temperatures warm. There are ways to enjoy the outdoors with some observations and planning.

The time of year that you have allergy problems can give you a clue as to the offender:

  • Late winter and spring: trees—in particular, birches, elms, willows, oaks and maples, to name a few
  • Late spring and early summer: grasses
  • Late summer and fall: weeds such as ragweed

Once you know the culprit, you can plan your day by watching the pollen and mold forecasts online, on TV or in the paper. Typically pollen levels decline in early morning or late evening. A thorough downpour will also cleanse the air.

Take your allergy medication pre-emptively, and if you are going out, bring it with you. It’s easier and more comfortable to prevent than to chase symptoms.

Dress defensively. Wraparound sunglasses help keep pollen and your fingers away from your eyes. Consider a paper face mask if you are doing gardening and perhaps kicking up some pollen.

If you do come into contact with allergens, wash your hands to prevent pollen spread. Also wash around your eyes with cool water to avoid rubbing allergens into them later. Finally, shower before bedtime and wash your hair so you don’t tuck pollen into your bedding.

Smell the flowers, not the pollen: Plants that rely on pollinators have heavy sticky pollen that is not so easily lofted on the wind. Cactuses, daffodils, hyacinths, lilacs, roses, tulips and zinnias can be good backyard companions if airborne pollen gives you grief.

The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology has a Web page with great tips on coping with allergies, along with a doctor finder, should the season prove very rough.

I hope we can enjoy the warm weather—summertime living can be easy on the allergy symptoms.

Brian Svazas, M.D., M.P.H.