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Rain and early flowers: A bad combination for Michigan allergy sufferers

Dandelions With Flying Seeds In Field At Sunset
Warm temperatures and rainfall have caused flowers to blossom earlier in the season, which exacerbates seasonal allergies. (Shutterstock)
  • Warmer temperatures and increased rainfall may cause pollen to become more common 
  • The mild winter and warmer springtime temperatures cause plants to bloom earlier, extending the allergy season
  • Over-the-counter nasal sprays and eye drops can help alleviate common allergy symptoms, like itchy eyes, coughing and sneezing

After an unseasonably warm winter and storms throughout the spring, allergy season is once again in full swing in Michigan. 

Many trees and plants began to bloom early, releasing pollen, mold spores and other airborne irritants that could trigger seasonal allergies — with the familiar sneezing, coughing, itchy eyes and other symptoms. 


The risk for allergy symptoms, based on pollen counts across the state, is between moderate and high, with the main allergen at this time of year being tree pollen followed by grass pollen, according to

As of Tuesday most of the northern Lower Peninsula and Upper Peninsula are experiencing medium and high pollen counts, while the southern part of the state has medium and low-medium pollen counts.


Tree pollen allergies are common during the spring, with grass pollen a common allergen in the summer, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Allergies to ragweed, found in weedy grasses, are common in fall, the group says.  

Allergies can lead to coughing, sneezing, rashes, itchy eyes, hives, a runny nose or a scratchy throat. Serious reactions can cause breathing trouble or an asthma attack.

“Antihistamines, corticosteroids, they kind of get our bodies adjusted to preventing these pollutants from entering our body and then us having a reaction to it,“ said Irfan Salam, pharmacy manager for CVS Health. “Antihistamines and corticosteroids would be our best bet when we want to prevent future allergy.”

Pollen counts fluctuate from day to day, and how people respond will too,   Salam said. To prevent a bad reaction, it’s best to start taking medication before allergy season starts and continue for the duration of the season, he added. 

As many as 60 million people suffer from seasonal allergies each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Dr. Michael A. Carron, an associate professor of otolaryngology at Wayne State University, said between 20% and 30% of his patients suffer from seasonal allergies. 

“We have cells in our body called mast cells, and those cells may be programmed to basically get triggered by trees, grasses, molds, dogs, cats, dust mites,” Carron said. The mast cells, “release the histamine. That’s how you have an allergic response.” 

While people have had seasonal allergies forever, warmer temperatures, along with increased rainfall, can cause trees, grass and weeds to produce even more pollen than they did in earlier years, exacerbating the symptoms for some people.

“It's been very wet, and when it's that wet, the trees start to release more pollen when they bloom,” Carron said. “Bad weather gets these trees to start dumping and delivering their pollen like crazy.” 

“All the high water from all this rain then increases molds, spores and fungi,” he said.  “People can have terrible allergies to the spores, the molds and the fungi.” 

How to alleviate allergy symptoms

The most common way to treat allergy symptoms is with antihistamines. People can go to their doctor for an oral antihistamine, nasal antihistamine or nasal steroids to target inflammation. However, some antihistamines can be purchased over the counter, like Zyrtec or Claritin. 


Carron also suggested formal allergy testing along with immunotherapy for people who experience severe allergy symptoms. “Their job is to trick the body. So when the allergen comes in, your body tracks it down and gobbles it up sort of like it could for a cold or a bacteria versus it triggering those mast cells, releasing histamine,” he said. 

However, immunotherapy is a lengthy process that could take months or even years and it may not treat allergy symptoms at all. 

Avoiding things that trigger your seasonal allergies altogether is recommended. Doing outdoor activities in the early evening and at night when pollen is less productive may help decrease the chances of your seasonal allergies being triggered. 

Additionally, leaving the doors and windows closed is recommended to reduce the chances of pollen traveling in your home.

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