Spring in Fox Valley brings milder weather, time spent outdoors, and beautiful blooms. Unfortunately for allergy sufferers, it also brings the infamous pollen and molds that can prevent you from actually enjoying the season.

Allergy season in Northern Illinois typically starts around February or March. It stretches through the first frost of winter. This year, allergy season began earlier than usual due to an unseasonably warm February. And according to experts, you can expect allergy season to begin earlier and earlier each year.

So what can you do to prepare and manage your symptoms?

Understanding Allergy Season in Northern Illinois

Since Illinois has a cold winter season, allergy season usually starts a bit later than it does in some warmer states.  Peak allergy months in Northern Illinois are April, May, June, and September, when pollen counts are at their highest. If you have seasonal allergies, youll want to check the pollen counts daily and plan accordingly.

Pollen counts are highest in the early morning and reach their peak around midday. Weather also plays a role—rain lowers the pollen count in the air, while dry, windy weather increases it.

Tree pollen is the culprit for allergy symptoms when it’s in the air—most often in March, April, and May. Grass pollination occurs in May and June, and weed pollination occurs from mid-August through the end of September.

Although Illinois residents get a break from allergy season during the cold winter months, you’re not totally in the clear if indoor allergies like mold, dust mites, and pet dander trigger your allergies.

Its important to identify your personal allergy triggers so youre able to mitigate them.

Understanding Your Personal Allergy Triggers and Symptoms

The symptoms you’ll experience during allergy season depend on the severity of your allergies to specific triggers. Common symptoms of allergies include but aren’t limited to:

  • Sneezing
  • Itchy, watery eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Congestion
  • Headaches and sinus pressure
  • Post-nasal drip
  • Worsening asthma

Since the symptoms of a cold and allergies are so similar, it can often be tough to tell the difference. Generally, colds produce productive coughs, while allergies are more likely to be associated with a dry cough. Allergies don’t typically cause body aches or fevers.

Pay attention to when your allergy symptoms begin so you can identify what might be triggering them and take steps to avoid allergens that irritate you.

Fox Valley ENT can help

How to Prepare for Allergy Season in Northern Illinois

Seasonal allergies can sneak up on you and leave you feeling miserable and unproductive when you least expect it. Being prepared for allergy season can help reduce your symptoms and discomfort and improve your quality of life. 

As allergy season nears, watch the local pollen reports. Tools like Pollen.com are a great resource for pollen forecasts. You’ll be able to see the types of allergens in your area and their severity.

On days when allergies are predicted to be severe, keep your doors and windows closed. Avoid hanging laundry outside to dry. When you come in from outdoor activities, change your clothes, since pollen can cling to them. An air purifier that uses a HEPA filter can help trap allergens in the air that make their way into your home. 

Remember to take your shoes off when you enter your home so you don’t track pollen inside. Wash your bedding frequently, and vacuum and dust your home often.

Finally, stock up on over-the-counter (OTC) allergy medications early to prepare for allergy season—youll want to have them on hand if allergy season comes early and catches you off guard.

How to Manage and Treat Your Seasonal Allergies

There are several over-the-counter and prescription treatments on the market today to help allergy sufferers find relief from their symptoms:

  • Antihistamines such as Claritin and Zyrtec can help you find short-term relief from common allergy symptoms. You must take these medications daily to find consistent relief.
  • Decongestants like Sudafed will help to relieve your sinus and nasal congestion.
  • Nasal corticosteroids such as Flonase or Nasacort work to reduce inflammation in your nasal passages and ease your breathing.
  • Eye drops help to clear up red, itchy eyes.
  • Natural remedies like green tea, honey, and vitamin C can help to reduce your allergy symptoms due to their anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Allergy shots are injected regularly over time. They can help desensitize your system to certain allergens.
  • Prescription medications can be prescribed by your doctor if over-the-counter options aren’t cutting it.

Before taking any allergy medication, it’s important to consult with a trusted physician. At Fox Valley Ear, Nose, and Throat Associates, our experts can help you find relief from your seasonal allergy symptoms.

For those who suffer from chronic allergic sinusitis, Image-Guided Sinus Surgery might be the best treatment. In most cases, an open incision is not required, and patients are able to go home shortly after.

When to Choose an ENT Over an Allergist

When it comes to respiratory and ear-nose-throat (ENT) issues, it can be difficult to know whether to see an allergist or an ENT specialist.

Both medical professionals have expertise in treating conditions related to the respiratory system.

An allergist specializes in diagnosing and treating allergies and immune system disorders. In contrast, an ENT specialist focuses on the ear, nose, and throat, diagnosing and treating conditions such as sinusitis, tonsillitis, hearing loss, and sleep apnea.

An ENT specialist may be more appropriate for chronic sinusitis, hearing loss, or vocal cord issues. However, both allergists and ENT specialists play an important role in treating respiratory and ear-nose-throat conditions.

We Can Help You Find Seasonal Allergy Relief

If you’re struggling to find allergy relief and are experiencing unpleasant ear, nose, or throat symptoms, Fox Valley ENT specialists can help.

Our team of experts at our Algonquin, Elgin, St. Charles, and Huntley locations are trusted by hundreds of patients in the Fox Valley area.

Request an appointment at Fox Valley ENT today.

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Glen K Lochmueller, M.D.

Dr. Lochmueller is board certified by the American Board of Otolaryngology. He received his doctor of medicine at Indiana University School of Medicine (Honors) in 1984.