Mold and pollen can cause relatively similar respiratory symptoms, like sneezing, a runny nose, itchy and watery eyes, and wheezing in patients with asthma.  Credit: Pexels

CHICAGO — Allergy season has Chicagoans fumbling for tissues — and there’s no end in sight.

Spring days when it’s warm, sunny and there’s a light breeze tend to be the worst for people with tree pollen allergies. And even though Chicago’s had a chillier, rainier spring, the city is still regularly seeing medium to high pollen levels, Accuweather meteorologist Alan Reppert said.

“Normally, our tree pollen levels at least are very high,” Reppert said. “We are seeing that across much of the area, that the high pollen levels are really in place, and that’s going to continue at least for the next several days here.

“We typically start to see the tree pollen levels slack … as we get farther into May.”

But the end of tree pollen season doesn’t mean the end of allergies.

Grass pollen levels should begin to increase in June, while ragweed pollen levels typically increase toward the end of summer into fall, Reppert said.

There are a variety of other pollen types, including flower pollen and mold, and they can affect people with allergies from spring to fall, said Dr. Anju Peters, Northwestern University professor of allergy and immunology.

It might seem like allergy season is getting worse because there was a milder winter, which means the “growing seasons tends to be longer,” with the warmer, spring-y weather starting earlier, Peters said.

“But like every other year, though, I feel like this year people are complaining about the tree pollen,” Peters said.

Day-to-day temperature and weather conditions can affect people dealing with allergies, and people may notice increased breathing problems following a bad rain storm, Peters previously told Block Club. Wind is another factor in pollen levels, Reppert said.

People allergic to pollen can experience symptoms like hay fever, runny nose, sneezing, itchy eyes, watery eyes, congestion and postnasal drainage, Peters said. 

Allergies can also impact people with asthma and cause people who don’t typically experience breathing issues to cough, have shortness of breath, wheeze and experience chest tightness, Peters said.

These symptoms can potentially last for months when spring starts, Peters said.

Peters said 20-30 percent of people might have allergies.

“The symptoms are bothersome enough,” Peters said. “They affect your daily, everyday living. They can affect your work. They can affect your school and potentially can be quite serious if they’re affecting your lungs.”

Peters recommends limiting outdoor time when pollen levels are higher and wearing sunglasses and hats to keep the pollen from getting in your eyes and hair. If allergy sufferers are indoors, keeping windows closed, using air conditioning units, changing your clothes and taking a shower can help relieve symptoms, Peters said.

People also can try over-the-counter antihistamines and nasal steroid sprays for relief, Peters said. Peters also recommends people who know they have issues with allergies around the same time each year to begin using the spray about two weeks before the start of the allergy season to try to stave off symptoms.

“Unfortunately, pollen allergies are very bothersome and affect your quality of life,” Peters said. “There’s treatment options available over the counter, but if someone is not getting relief with those treatment options, we have very good other treatment options. Consider seeing your allergist to find out what you’re allergic to so you can then be treated appropriately.”

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