‘Start treating in February’: Experts say now is the time to prepare for springtime allergies

Whether taking medications or boosting your immunity, there are many ways to lessen seasonal allergy symptoms.
If you get spring allergies, it's not too early to start preparing
Published: Feb. 22, 2023 at 8:48 AM MST
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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) - It’s never too early to prepare for your seasonal allergies, according to allergists.

While there’s no panacea or one right way to prevent them, experts say you can minimize symptoms.

“You want to start treating two to three weeks before your allergy season,” said Kanao Otsu, an allergist with National Jewish Health. “You might be allergic in the spring, then you want to start treating maybe in February when things are still not pollinating yet. It’s just to get this buildup of medication in you.”

Dr. Otsu recommends various preventative methods, such as over-the-counter medication, allergy shots and maintaining good health.

The doctor says “treat locally,” meaning use medicine specific to your symptoms. If you have sniffles, you can use nasal sprays. If you have itchy eyes, you can go for eye drops.

Allergy shots are a more long-term effort you’d have to keep at for three to five years. They’re different depending on where you live but are usually over 90% effective in reducing symptoms. At National Jewish Health where Dr. Otsu is, for instance, they use the “Rocky Mountain Complete Panel.”

The doctor says it’s important you know you’ll stay in one area for those three to five years before getting these region and person-specific shots.

Any allergist should be able to customize your own “allergen cocktail.”

But what exactly are allergies, and how can they pop in at specific times of the year for some of us?

Experts tell 11 News that our bodies overreact to typically harmless, unfamiliar triggers called allergens.

These allergens in the “springtime [are] trees, summer [are] grasses, and then in the fall, weeds. But in places where there aren’t such four distinct seasons, it can be alert allergy season all year round,” the doctor explained.

Allergic reactions can be mild, such as a runny nose and sneezing, to severe, including asthma-like symptoms such as shortness of breath.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported earlier this year that about a quarter of adults nationwide had a seasonal allergy. The cost of nasal allergies range from $3 to $4 billion annually.

In our state, it all depends on the weather. If there’s lots of winter snow, there’s often no pollen. Once spring comes, however, there’s suddenly lots of pollen in the air. The CDC says that the more pollen there is for a longer period of time, the more likely your body may react to allergens.

Allergists say during the Colorado spring, pollen from trees most often cause allergies. Ash, Birch, Cottonwood and the Rocky Mountain Juniper are some of those common trigger trees.

But keep in mind that again, you can’t entirely stop your allergies.

“If you’re having a lot of bad allergies, it’s not that you’re not doing enough,” Dr. Otsu pointed out. “It might just be the cottonwoods are really bad this year.”

New developments also show that allergy seasons may now come a month or so earlier due to global warming.

According to the CDC, climate change could lead to more pollen overall for longer periods of time.

If you want to check pollen levels in your region, there’s an online count of pollen and mold levels nationwide available, including Colorado Springs.

We have the link on our website. Just click on Find It.