The 2017 Michigan allergy season is in full swing, and after the mild winter Michiganders just saw, the tree pollen is out a lot earlier than normal and it’s bringing with it a fierce and early start to the allergy season.

According to Fox 17, Dr. Nicholas Hartog, an Allergist/Immunologist at Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids, says he usually gets a surge in patients at the end of March.

But this year, that surge came two to three weeks early.

“And one of the big symptoms with trees that we find is a lot of ocular symptoms, or red, itchy eyes. Watery eyes,” says Hartog. “That really tends to be a tree predominant symptom that we see. In addition we get people with a lot of sneezing, cough, stuffy nose, runny nose, headaches, trouble sleeping, and other symptoms like that.”

Dr. Hartog says over the counter medications can help ease allergy symptoms for many people.

Is It Possible to Avoid Pollen and Allergy Season in Michigan?

“Complete avoidance of pollen is impractical,” says Daniel Waggoner, MD, an allergist in Mystic, Conn., tells his patients. “In Connecticut, spring brings tree pollens. Late spring and summer brings grass pollens. Late summer and fall brings weed pollen.”

“That in general holds true across the country,” he says. That’s the same kind of pollen you’ll see in Michigan. Depending on what’s growing around your property you might even start seeing that fine dust of yellow across your home, vehicles, and landscaping.

Living in Urban Areas of Michigan Can Make it Worse

You can get sacked twice over by Michigan’s allergy season if you’re in places like the Metro-Detroit area. Along with the earlier bloom times we’re seeing this year, there’s a significant impact from elevated carbon dioxide levels. Plants love carbon dioxize, says Dr. Jeffrey G. Demain, a clinical professor at the University of Washington and director of the Allergy, Asthma and Immunology Center of Alaska.

“When carbon dioxide levels are high,” says Demain, “you get a longer pollen season, one that starts earlier and lasts longer overall.” What makes that worse is that everything seems to bloom in cycles. There’s always some plant pollinating, so there’s no real break during the allergy season.

How to Cope with Michigan Pollen and the Allergy Season

Pollen is typically an invisible annoyance, though as mentioned you can see it when it starts to collect en masse. By itself though, the average particle of pollen is smaller than the width of a human hair and virtually impossible to track with the naked eye, according to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology.

That small size is where the problem comes in. Being airborne, pollen can almost immediately trigger allergic reactions in those who are sensitive to it. Right now, there’s some 35 million Americans with seasonal allergies who are sensitive to pollen, according to the National Institutes of Health Sciences

The best way to protect yourself is to be aware of the pollen count. Find out from your doctor what you may be most allergic to, and find out when those pollens peak in your area of Michigan. That way you can take action when a reaction is triggered, and plan accordingly.

Here are some simple methods to help cope with the pollen count around your home

  • Take allergy meds up to two weeks before you expect the symptoms to start appearing, or when the start of the season is suspected.
  • Change your clothes as soon as you come home to avoid spreading the pollen through your house.
  • Schedule outdoor activities for yourself and your family in the afternoon and evening, as pollen counts are highest in the early morning hours.
  • Anytime you work outside or play outdoors, take a quick shower and wash your hair to eliminate the pollen from your body.
  • Screens don’t effectively prevent pollen from entering the home, so keep your windows closed. Leaving your windows open all the time allows pollen to blow in and collect all around your home.
  • Use a regular salt water solution with a netti pot to help rinse your nasal passages. This can help remove trapped allergens and reduce inflammation in the sinuses.
  • Store your car in the garage or away from trees that will deposit pollen on the vehicle. If you can’t do that, keep sanitary wipes in your car to clean your hands after getting in. Then you can remove the pollen before touching your face.
  • Brush your pets regularly, preferably outside or in a sunroom. Wash the brush as soon as you’re done.
  • If you use a bagless vacuum, empty it outside so that it goes straight into the garbage outside of your home.
  • Keep debris from your porches and walks. Not only can debris grow mold and trap moisture around the foundation and walls of your home’s exterior, it’s also a place for pollen to collect and create a problem when it gets stirred up.
  • Be vigilant about dusting everything in your home most often than usual. Don’t ignore the hard to reach places, especially the ceiling. Pollen can settle anywhere

Good Maintenance Can Reduce Pollen and Mold

A good cleaning and maintenance routine will keep the pollen under control in your home, and while you’re working at that you’ll be more in control of mold levels as well. With the cleaning, you’ll see things you might not normally catch, and are more likely to keep moisture levels under control. There’s no better time than now to get your home inspected for mold infiltration, pollen control, and general maintenance.