If you're perpetually stuffed up, sniffling, or if it feels like your eyes won't stop itching, welcome to allergy season.

By Lambeth Hochwald
Updated March 07, 2019

Trying to figure out what months are allergy season can also feel like something of a trick question. Here's a good rule of thumb: Allergy season starts when the trees begin to start budding—basically, we’ll begin to enter this year’s allergy season over the course of the next few weeks.

However, one thing to always keep in mind is that the onset of allergy season—and how long allergy season lasts—depends on what part of the country you live in and what pollen, grass, or ragweed you’re allergic to.

“For example, the tree pollen season is from late February to June,” Josef Shargorodsky, MD, an otolaryngologist at Coastal Ear Nose and Throat in New Jersey, tells Health. “The grass season lasts all summer and the ragweed allergy season then goes from August until the first snowfall.”

When to start allergy treatment

As a general rule, allergy treatment should begin at least two weeks before the start of allergy season. “This advance time gives medicines a chance to kick in and build up in a person’s immune system,” says Tania Elliott, MD, an allergist in New York City and a spokesperson for the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (ACAAI). “It’s much easier to prevent symptoms from occurring than waiting for an attack to happen and then trying to get things under control.”

It may also help to notice if there have been any patterns in your recent health. For example, if you’ve felt lousy for the last few Marches and have experienced the same symptoms—whether this is a runny nose, sneezing, congestion, or itchy or watery eyes—you might not get routine spring colds but, instead, should make an appointment with an allergist.

“If you always think you have a cold in March but remember having three of the same symptoms last year, you may have allergies,” Janna Tuck, MD, an ACAAI spokesperson and allergist in Santa Fe, New Mexico, tells Health.

An ounce of allergy prevention will go a long way

For regular allergy sufferers, the goal is to prevent allergic reactions—before they happen. A few ways you can be prepared for the season is by keeping an eye on pollen counts (these numbers are usually announced on-air by local weather reporters) and, if you’re traveling, to always read up on potential pollen counts in that town or city.

By staying on a schedule with your allergy medication, you can keep your immune system strong and ensure that you won’t need more medication to keep future allergic episodes at bay.

“Once an attack occurs, your immune system is releasing all kinds of chemicals responsible for itching, redness, and swelling,” Dr. Elliott says. “This means that we often have to give higher doses of medication to manage it.”

And, while seasonal allergies—whether they come in the form of a stuffed nose, itchy eyes, or constant sneezing—aren't life-threatening, you can have severe symptoms if you also have asthma.

“Allergy symptoms can be quite severe for asthma sufferers,” says Dr. Tuck. “If you have asthma and have difficulty breathing or are coughing a lot, that’s another important reason to see a specialist, get tested, and get on a good treatment plan that might include regular allergy shots—the one thing that prevents asthma attacks stemming from your allergies.”

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