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Seasonal Allergies

Sneezing, itchy eyes and nose and/or throat congestion are the key signs of seasonal allergies, which often come on suddenly and last a few weeks to a few months. The trigger is commonly pollen. For this type of allergy, also called hay fever and allergic rhinitis, the symptoms happen when trees, grasses, and weeds release pollen in the air during fertilization.

The severity of allergy symptoms depends on:
  • what type of pollen a person is allergic to (a person can be allergic to more than one kind of pollen);
  • when that pollen is released;
  • how much pollen is in the air, and;
  • how much contact the person has with that pollen.

Allergy Season: Signs and Symptoms

Seasonal allergies typically show up in the spring, autumn, and during windy weather but can happen throughout the year depending on the release of pollen. The typical symptoms of seasonal allergies include:
  • sneezing
  • itchy nose and/or throat
  • nasal congestion
  • clear, runny nose
  • coughing
  • itchy, watery, and/or red eyes.

Talk to your doctor if you think you or your child might have allergies. Your doctor will ask you about symptoms and when these symptoms show up. Based on that your doctor may recommend how you should plan for the upcoming season, recommend over-the counter medications such as antihistamines, to offer relief or refer you to an allergy specialist.
Reducing exposure to allergens such as pollen is the best way to lighten the symptoms for a person with seasonal allergies looking for relief. Tips include:

Wash the pollen away and keep it away every day.
  • Keep windows closed to reduce how much pollen goes into your home, car or work place.
  • Take off your shoes when you go inside. This will cut down on bringing in pollen and dust into your house.
  • Wash your hands and rinse your face often. Pollen settles easily onto the skin and your hands and face most are often are exposed.
  • Take a shower after being outside during pollination seasons.
  • Bathe before going to bed and wash your hair because pollen can easily settle on skin and be trapped in hair.
  • Frequently bathe pets that go in and out of the house because pets can carry pollen in their fur and hair.

Plan your day.
  • Check the daily pollen counts.
  • If possible, stay indoors when pollen counts are high.
  • Plan outdoor activities for days when pollen counts are lower or when pollination does not occur for the trees, grasses or weeds that tend to cause your symptoms.
  • Avoid doing yard work such as mowing lawns and trimming trees during allergy season (pollination).

Clean your home, car, and office/workplace.
  • Dust frequently with a damp cloth and use vacuum machine with a HEPA filter. In addition to vacuum cleaning your floors, you should also clean upholstered furniture such as couches, chairs and car seats.
  • Spring clean in the spring, summer and autumn. Wash the walls, countertops, desks and other surfaces regularly with soap and water.
  • Wash your bedding. While it is common to wash and change bed sheets weekly, if you have seasonal allergies you should also wash all your bedding such as blankets, comforters, and bedspreads.
  • Wash household items made of fabric such as table linens (tablecloths, napkins, placemats), throw rugs, and curtains.
  • Use mattress and pillow covers.
  • With so many sunny days in New Mexico it may be tempting to dry your clothes, towels and bed sheets on an outdoor clothesline. Avoid doing this during pollination season of the trees, grasses or weeds.
  • How long is your commute to work or school? You may not realize how much time you spend in your car. It is important to vacuum clean your car or truck frequently and wipe all surfaces with a damp cloth.
  • Periodically replace the filters in your heating (furnace) and cooling systems (air conditioner or swamp cooler).
  • Give your pets a bath and wash pet bedding and toys.
  • Often wash clothes that you wear everyday such a windbreakers, light jackets, sweatshirts and sweaters.

Think about your yard.
  • Do you have wind-pollinating trees or shrubs right outside your bedroom window?
  • How close to your entryway is grass growing?

If you have an allergy sufferer in your household, choose landscape options carefully and keep pollination patterns in mind as you plan your yard and garden. For example, plant flowering plants that are pollinated by insects rather than by the wind. In New Mexico cacti and succulents are an option for people with seasonal allergies because these plants are drought-resistant and low pollen producers. Keep in mind that most trees pollinate with the wind and that male trees or shrubs produce more pollen than the female ones.
  • Check your local ordinances to learn which plants are not allowed in landscaping where you live.

What else can you do?
Since New Mexico has many mild days of nice weather and great landscapes to explore, staying inside all the time may not be realistic for many. If this is the case for you; talk to your doctor about which medicines (sold over-the counter or prescription), such as nasal sprays would work for you. Your doctor may refer you to an allergist to help you determine which treatment options would best for you. Understanding when the high season is for the pollen you are allergic to is helpful so you may plan your start date for treatments.

Exposure: Find relief by planning ahead

The allergies a person suffers will vary from person to a person. Sometimes it depends on what pollen a person is allergic to, how much of that pollen is in the air and how much a person breathes in. Understanding the typical release time of pollen from local vegetation can help a person make plans to minimize contact with pollen. A person can reduce allergy symptoms by doing activities away from high pollen areas and by taking allergy medications that prevent symptoms before going to high pollen areas.
During pollination, weeds, grasses and trees release pollen as part of fertilization. The powder-like particles, sometimes too fine too see, are carried by bees and insects from plant to plant or in the air by wind and breezes. Pollen that comes from plants which fertilize through the air are a common trigger for symptoms of seasonal allergies (hay fever).

The allergies a person suffers will vary from person to person, even within the same household and symptoms of seasonal allergies differ from season to season. The onset and intensity of symptoms depends on what pollen a person is allergic to, how much of that pollen is in the air and how much contact a person has had with the pollen.

A person can reduce these symptoms by planning activities that limit exposure to pollen. This can include staying indoors during peak pollination times of the pollen he/she is allergic to, changing bedding more frequently, and washing hair daily. If you suffer from allergies, or you have symptoms that you think might be allergies, you should talk with your healthcare provider to determine which pollens you are allergic to. Then you can discuss which medications will reduce or prevent symptoms and what you can do to limit your contact with the pollen causing your symptoms.

People in central New Mexico may be interested in knowing which trees, shrubs and grasses are common in the area. The City of Albuquerque's Air Quality program lists the following vegetation in the Albuquerque area which are often associated with season allergies:
  • Juniper/Cedar
  • Elm
  • Ash
  • Cottonwood
  • Mulberry
  • Chenopodiaceae (common weeds)
  • Sage
  • Grass
  • Ragweed
Weather conditions such as wind, can affect how much pollen is carried in the air, but usually not when pollination occurs. The typical pollen season begins in early spring and ends on the first fall freeze, which for much of New Mexico, typically occurs in late October and early November.

If you notice a rise in symptoms in early spring, usually in March and April, this may be due to allergies of tree pollens. In central and northern New Mexico, often those trees are Juniper and Cottonwood. Juniper is known to begin releasing pollen as early as December, peaking in March and April. Cottonwood typically begins pollinating in March and this lasts through June.

Typically weeds pollinate in late summer and fall. Weeds associated with seasonal allergies include ragweed (there are several kinds) and sagebrush. Russian thistle, more commonly known as tumbleweed, tends to pollinate from spring through summer.

Common Pollination Periods in Central New Mexico/ Albuquerque Metro Area

During spring and summer months, many people travel to central New Mexico for sporting events, tournaments, shopping, and school field trips. The following guide may be useful when planning activities for people who suffer from seasonal allergies, whether they live in, visit or shop in central New Mexico. Albuquerque's pollen season lasts from March 1st through October 1st. This is based on information from the City of Albuquerque Air Quality Bureau.

  • Juniper/Cedar pollen is produced from January through April and from September through December.
  • Elm pollen is produced from January through April.
  • Ash pollen is produced from March through June.
  • Cottonwood pollen is produced from March through June.
  • Mulberry pollen is produced from April through May.
  • Chenopodiaceae (common weeds) pollen is produced from April through August.
  • Sage pollen is produced from May through August.
  • Grass pollen is produced from May through October.
  • Ragweed pollen is produced from August through October.

City of Albuquerque Air Quality Bureau:
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Content updated: Thu, 4 Jun 2020 16:26:02 MDT