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.

Changes in the temperature and humidity, fluctuating levels of airborne triggers, time spent indoors vs. outdoors, and more can all affect how you feel and make certain seasons particularly challenging when it comes to symptom management.

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.

Spring Allergies and Asthma

If you have seasonal allergies (hay fever) and asthma, pollen may make it difficult to enjoy the sights, smells, and sounds of spring. Getting outdoors can create havoc for asthma control, too. 

When you have an allergic response, it's actually your immune system reacting to something harmless, like pollen, that it's misidentified as dangerous. In trying to protect you from this perceived threat, it releases chemicals called histamines.

The goal of histamines is to get the allergen out of your body and prevent more from coming in. To flush allergens out, it causes symptoms like runny nose, watery eyes, and sneezing. To keep more allergens from getting in, histamines can also trigger inflammation in the airways, which can trigger an asthma attack.

Taking daily allergy medications like Allegra (fexofenadine) or Zyrtec (cetirizine) can help control your spring allergy symptoms. 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
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Summertime comes with its own allergens that may bother you, plus high heat and humidity can really exacerbate your asthma, even if it's not allergic asthma. Breathing in humid air actually activates the nerves that cause your throat to tighten, and it can hold more allergens, as well.

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

Especially for those with asthma, though, being outside presents problems, too. Breathing in cold air can cause inflammation in your airways and make the muscles tense, especially if it's also very dry air or you're exercising outside.

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

  • Mistake 1: Not getting a flu shot. Asthma elevates your risk for dangerous flu complications, so you should take steps to protect yourself from influenza.
  • Mistake 2: 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.
  • Mistake 3: 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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Article Sources
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  1. Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Asthma capitals 2019: pollen.

  2. 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

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

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

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