Allergies and Asthma Through the Seasons

Each season can brings new symptom management challenges

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Allergies and asthma can bring about the same symptoms, no matter the season. But you may notice that you're sneezy, stuffy, short of breath, and so on at certain times of the year more than others.

Each season can expose you to different allergens, such as pollen, that are harmless save for the fact that your immune system happens to misidentify them as dangerous. This causes the release of histamines, chemicals that work to clear allergens from the body by triggering allergy symptoms like runny nose, watery eyes, and sneezing.

Histamines also cause inflammation in their effort to prevent additional allergens from coming in. While helpful in that regard, that inflammation can also trigger an asthma attack. Different times of year can make certain other asthma triggers, like temperature, hard to escape as well.

This means you may need different treatment strategies in the fall than in the summer, or in the winter than in the spring. You may need to work with your doctor to identify these patterns and adapt your medication routine season by season.

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Spring Allergies and Asthma

Man outdoors blowing his nose

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Trees with new buds and flowerbeds waking up may be beautiful, but they can release pollen that those with hayfever and/or allergic asthma dread. The often quick rise in pollen counts and more time spent outdoors as the weather warms up can wreak havoc on symptom management.

Taking daily allergy medications like Allegra (fexofenadine) or Zyrtec (cetirizine) can help control your spring allergy symptoms and temper the allergic response that can worsen asthma. However, be sure to start them a few weeks before the start of the season as they take a while to be at full strength.

At the same time, check on your rescue inhaler to see if you need a refill so you don't run out at a bad time.

If you already take an allergy medication year-round, talk to your doctor about whether you need to add a second medication or explore other treatment alternatives.

Summer Allergy and Asthma

Young woman gardening
istockphoto

Summertime comes with its own allergens that may bother you, plus high heat and humidity can really exacerbate your asthma, no matter the type. Breathing in humid air actually activates the nerves that cause your throat to tighten. It can also hold more allergens, helping deliver them right into your body as you breath it in.

Summer also brings high ozone levels and thunderstorms, which are both known to cause increases in asthma symptoms. Additionally, some common pastimes like gardening and camping (with exposure to allergens and smoke from campfires) can be more problematic during this time of year.

Worsening wildfire seasons are another cause of summer irritants that can trigger asthma attacks.

Fall Allergic Asthma

Autumn portrait of a loving senior couple
istockphoto

Each type of pollen has its season, and late summer and early fall are when weed pollen—and especially ragweed pollen—peaks, kicking off another round of seasonal allergies for many people.

Because of the change in the weather, some people mistake autumn allergies for early colds. It pays to know the differences:

  • A cold usually lasts between three and seven days, whereas allergies may persist for longer
  • Colds cause thick nasal mucus while allergies tend to cause a clear, thinner snot

Re-Starting Your Meds

If you were able to stop taking daily allergy drugs over the summer months, when allergies tend to drop off, you may benefit from starting them again sometime in August.

Winter Allergy-Induced Asthma

Young woman in winter forest hiding her face in mittens
istockphoto

If you're sensitive to indoor allergy and asthma triggers, winter can be a challenge for you, since you're more likely to spend time indoors and less likely to open windows and air things out.

For those with asthma, breathing in cold air can cause inflammation in the airways and make the muscles tense, especially if it's also very dry. Outdoor exercise can be particularly problematic.

To get through the winter with as few symptoms as possible, it may help to avoid some common winter-asthma mistakes:

  • Not getting a flu shot: Asthma elevates your risk for dangerous flu complications, so you should take steps to protect yourself from influenza.
  • Getting lax about treatments: If you're not updating and following your asthma action plan to account for possible winter issues, you could end up with poor asthma control during the cold months, which can increase your risk of respiratory complications.
  • Leaving your rescue inhaler behind: If you typically only need a rescue inhaler during allergy seasons, you can get out of the habit of carrying it in the winter. This puts you at risk if you should happen to have an asthma attack.

A Word From Verywell

Even if your asthma is typically only an issue during a particular season, remember that you could have an asthma attack any time of the year. Make sure you and your doctor create an adaptable allergy treatment regimen and asthma action plan, follow it diligently, and keep your rescue inhaler on hand just in case. That way, you won't put yourself at unnecessary risk if you encounter a trigger you don't expect.

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  1. Hayes D Jr, Collins PB, Khosravi M, Lin RL, Lee LY. Bronchoconstriction triggered by breathing hot humid air in patients with asthma: role of cholinergic reflexAm J Respir Crit Care Med. 2012;185(11):1190-1196. doi:10.1164/rccm.201201-0088OC

  2. American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology. Four things you might not know about fall allergies.

  3. Cleveland Clinic. How to manage winter asthma. Updated December 1, 2020.

  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Flu and people with asthma. Updated November 5, 2019.