Does spring rain ease allergy symptoms or make them worse?

How weather impacts those unpleasant springtime allergies

Photo by Roman Synkevych on Unsplash (Unsplash)

Though spring rain is great for our ecosystem, it generally does not help those with seasonal allergies -- at least, not for long.

Rumor has it that springtime rain can help alleviate allergy symptoms also associated with the season, but experts say that’s not entirely true.

Light rain can temporarily reduce pollen count, lessening the amount moving through the air and offering a brief respite from allergy symptoms. Since moisture weighs pollen down, humidity and rain can prevent pollen from traveling, experts say.

On the other hand, heavier rain and storms can actually worsen spring allergy symptoms.

Heavy rain can burst pollen particles, fracturing them into smaller particles that release into the air at a “much higher concentration,” an allergist told The Weather Channel. Pollen particles can get swept up into the clouds, and then can be broken into smaller particles by wind, humidity, moisture, and even lightning, experts say.

“Then you get these cold, dry outflows that carry the tiny allergens down to the ground, where they can readily enter the nose and lungs,” said Ari Sarsalari, Atlanta meteorologist with The Weather Channel.

When this happens during heavy rain or a thunderstorm, people can experience what is called thunderstorm asthma -- meaning an allergic reaction occurs in the lungs, triggering asthma or allergy symptoms in the upper respiratory tract.

But what about when the rain ends?

Even when the rain stops, the impact it had can contribute to conditions that make matters worse for those with allergies.

Rainfall doesn’t just impact those with tree pollen sensitivities; it can also worsen allergy symptoms for those with other triggers.

Rain can help weeds and grass grow, which can worsen allergies related to weed and grass pollen. Rain also creates damp conditions that are ideal for mold and mildew growth, affecting those sensitive to such allergens.

And, as you likely guessed, rain helps more plants and trees grow, which in turn produce more pollen.

What weather is good for those with spring allergies?

When the weather quickly fluctuates between periods of rain and dry conditions, allergy symptoms will crop up for many, experts say. If it is going to rain, which it probably will (it is spring), the best case scenario would be daily rain showers over the course of several days.

Experts say warm temperatures and wind can especially trigger allergy symptoms. Warm weather leads to more pollen production, and the wind helps spread it around.

Ideal spring weather for allergy sufferers would feature cooler temperatures and little-to-no wind.

Dry conditions can cause trees and plants to grow more slowly, which can reduce the amount of pollen circulating in the air. But, if it’s dry and windy, whatever pollen is present can be blown around much more easily, triggering allergy symptoms.

Alleviating allergy symptoms

Unfortunately, it seems that weather conditions have to be just right for those with spring allergies to find relief. And with the ever-fluctuating weather in Metro Detroit, it’s likely that symptoms will be persist for many.

Thankfully, the region has seen cooler temperatures this week, which have helped to keep symptoms at bay.

Tree pollen allergens are the primary issue for Metro Detroiters at this point in the season. Levels of grass and weed pollen and mold have been low so far.

---> Allergy forecast: Tree pollen triggering symptoms this week in Metro Detroit

Still, if you’re suffering from allergy symptoms, experts encourage people with a known history of allergies to begin their typical medications as early as they can in the season. (So if you haven’t yet, you may want to consider doing so now!)

People with springtime allergies are also encouraged to resist the urge to open their windows when the weather is nice, and to change their clothes and shower after spending time outside, since pollen falls on you. Health experts also encourage using fans to circulate air in your home.

If you’re getting recurring sinus infections, if the allergies impact your breathing, or if over the counter medications aren’t offering relief, experts suggest visiting an allergist. People who are mixing multiple allergy medications should seek expert help to determine the best plan of action, as some allergy medications are not safe if mixed together.

---> Sneezy season: Tips for easing early spring allergies

About the Author:

Cassidy Johncox is a senior digital news editor covering stories across the spectrum, with a special focus on politics and community issues.