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Seasonal Allergies

Learn about Seasonal Allergies

Sneezing, itchy eyes and nose and throat congestion are the key symptoms of seasonal allergies, which often come on suddenly and last a few days to a few months. The trigger is likely pollen. When a person is allergic to pollen, the body treats these tiny particles as invaders. Histamine and other chemicals are released by one's body into the bloodstream to combat the pollen and causes allergy symptoms. Hay fever (also known as allergic rhinitis) symptoms happen when trees, grasses, and weeds release tiny grains of pollen into the air during the fertilization phase of their reproductive cycle.

The severity of allergy symptoms depends on the type of pollen a person is allergic to (a person can be allergic to more than one kind of pollen); when that pollen is released; how much pollen is in the air, and; how much contact the person has with that pollen.

Allergy Signs and Symptoms

Seasonal allergies typically show up in the spring, autumn, and during windy weather but can happen throughout the year depending on the release of pollen. The typical symptoms of seasonal allergies include:

  • sneezing
  • itchy nose and/or throat
  • nasal congestion
  • clear, runny nose
  • coughing
  • itchy, watery, and/or red eyes.
Juniper pollen is a problem for many New Mexicans.

Seasonal allergy health tips

Reducing exposure to allergens such as pollen is the best way to lighten the symptoms for a person with seasonal allergies looking for relief. Tips include:

  • Wash the pollen away and keep it away every day.
  • Keep windows closed to reduce how much pollen goes into your home, car or work place.
  • Take off your shoes when you go inside to keep from bringing in pollen and dust into your house.
  • Wash your hands and rinse your face often. Pollen settles easily onto the skin and your hands and face because they are exposed.
  • Take a shower after being outside during periods of high pollination.
  • Bathe before going to bed and wash your hair because pollen can settle on skin and be trapped in hair.
  • Frequently bathe pets that go in and out of the house because pets can carry pollen in their fur.

More Helpful Information

Plan your day

  • Check the daily pollen counts.
  • If possible, stay indoors when pollen counts are high.
  • Plan outdoor activities for days when pollen counts are lower or when pollination does not occur for the trees, grasses or weeds that tend to cause your symptoms.
  • Take a shower after being outside during periods of high pollination.
  • Avoid doing yard work such as mowing lawns and trimming trees during pollination.

Clean your home, car, and work place.

  • Dust frequently with a damp cloth and use a vacuum with a HEPA filter. In addition to vacuuming your floors, you should also clean upholstered furniture such as couches, chairs and car seats.
  • Deep clean in the spring, summer and autumn. Wash the walls, countertops, desks and other surfaces regularly with soap and water.
  • Wash your bedding. While it is common to wash and change bed sheets weekly, if you have seasonal allergies you should also wash blankets, comforters, and bedspreads. Use mattress and pillow covers that can take frequent washing.
  • Wash household items made of fabric such as table linens, throw rugs, and curtains.
  • With so many sunny days in New Mexico it may be tempting to dry your clothes, towels and bed sheets on an outdoor clothesline. Avoid doing this during pollination season of the trees, grasses or weeds.
  • Vacuum clean your car or truck frequently and wipe all surfaces with a damp cloth.
  • Periodically replace the filters in your heating (furnace) and cooling systems (air conditioner or swamp cooler).
  • Wash clothes that you wear every day, such a windbreakers, light jackets, sweatshirts and sweaters, frequently.

Landscape for low pollen potential

  • Do you have wind-pollinating trees or shrubs right outside your bedroom window?
  • How close to your entryway is grass growing?
  • Choose landscape options carefully and keep pollination patterns in mind as you plan your yard and garden. For example, plant flowering plants that are pollinated by insects rather than by the wind. In New Mexico cacti and succulents are an option for people with seasonal allergies because these plants are drought-resistant and low pollen producers. Keep in mind that most trees pollinate with the wind and that male trees or shrubs produce more pollen than the female ones.
  • Check your local ordinances to learn which plants are not allowed in landscaping where you live.

Medical options

Since New Mexico has many mild days of nice weather and great landscapes to explore, staying inside all the time may not be realistic for many. If this is the case for you; talk to your doctor about which medicines (sold over-the counter or prescription), such as nasal sprays would work for you. Your doctor may refer you to an allergist to help you find treatment options. Understanding when the high season is for the pollen you are allergic to is helpful, so you may plan your start date for treatments.

New Mexico's Seasonal Pollen Periods

If you notice a rise in symptoms in early spring, usually in March and April, this may be due to allergies of tree pollens. In central and northern New Mexico, often those trees are Juniper and Cottonwood. Juniper is known to begin releasing pollen as early as December, peaking in March and April. Cottonwood typically begins pollinating in March and this lasts through June.

Weeds associated with seasonal allergies include ragweed (there are several kinds) and sagebrush which tend to pollinate in late summer and fall. Russian thistle, commonly known as tumbleweed, pollinates from spring through summer.

Pollination in the Central New Mexico/Albuquerque metro area

  • Elm pollen is produced from January through April.
  • Ash pollen is produced from March through June.
  • Cottonwood pollen is produced from March through June.
  • Mulberry pollen is produced from April through May.
  • Sage pollen is produced from May through August.
  • Grass pollen is produced from May through October.
  • Ragweed pollen is produced from August through October.
  • Chenopodiaceae (common weeds) pollen is produced from April through August.
  • Juniper/cedar pollen is produced from January through April and September through December.
Source: City of Albuquerque Air Quality Bureau
New Mexico's pollination by season.