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Did You Know That the Day After a Rainstorm, Pollen Counts Rise, Triggering Allergy Symptoms?

Seasonal allergies, also known as allergic rhinitis or hay fever, affect approximately 67 million adults and 14 million children in the United States. That’s a lot of runny noses, itchy eyes, and general malaise for a good portion of the year.

If you have pollen allergies, you might think that a good rainstorm could bring you some relief. After all, won’t the raindrops make the pollen heavier so it falls to the ground instead of swirling in the air?

As an expert allergist and immunologist in West Los Angeles, California, Catherine Fuller, MD, helps you identify your allergy triggers and avoid them, when possible. So, how should you react on a rainy day? Be grateful for allergy relief, or shut your windows tighter than ever?

You feel freshness in a rainstorm

Your initial feeling about rain is that it brings you a welcome relief from the irritation of pollen. When you’re outdoors and it starts to rain, the air feels and smells fresher. You can breathe again.

That’s because raindrops are heavier than the bits of pollen that drift on breezes during spring and summer. The initial downpour does, in fact, weigh the pollen down, casting it to the ground.

You can breathe more freely outdoors when it’s raining and in the few hours afterward. You may even open your windows to let the pollen-free air circulate and freshen your rooms.

But rain creates more pollen

However, the relief from a rainstorm is temporary. Although the water droplets weigh down the pollen they encounter, they also tend to break them into smaller and smaller particles.

Once the rain dries up and the breeze blows again, those light and now tiny pollen particles become windborne. These extra-small particles may be even more irritating to you. And there are a lot more of them.

Rain feeds pollen trees

In addition to feeling the effects of more pollen once a rainstorm has passed, wet weather contributes to your pollen misery with a long-term action, too. The water droplets in a rainstorm are filled with nitrates, a type of natural fertilizer.

The extra nitrates help trees and plants grow stronger and flowers bloom. And where greens and flowers thrive, so does pollen.

And then there are thunderstorms

While a rainstorm may give you a brief relief, beware when the storm is severe enough to cause thunder and lightning. The winds and humidity generated by thunderstorms bring on a sequence of events that worsen pollen, even during the storm itself.

Cold downdrafts concentrate allergens such as pollen and mold into clusters. The concentrations are swept up into the clouds, where the humidity levels are high.

Inside the clouds, the lightning, wind, and humidity hammer the particles into ever smaller pieces. Gusts of wind that reach the earth blow these tiny particles into your nose and mouth, where you easily inhale them. They may even irritate your lungs and bring on an asthma attack.

How to beat the rain

The more you know about your allergy triggers, the better equipped you can be to deal with the days when weather — fair or foul — brings more pollen your way. If you know you’ll be out and about after a rainstorm, be sure to use your allergy medication prophylactically, so your system is ready to handle the increase in pollen.

You can also dampen the effect that pollen has on your system by undergoing immunotherapy. If you’re allergic to pollen, we can expose you to minute amounts of pollen so your body learns to tolerate it.

Over a long period, we gradually increase the dose of pollen to the point where it doesn’t bring on an attack anymore. You may undergo immunotherapy in the form of injections, or you may be able to opt for sublingual (under the tongue) tablets.

Welcome the rain without worrying about an allergy attack by scheduling an immunotherapy consultation. Call Catherine Fuller, MD, today for allergy help at 310-828-7978 or request an appointment online.

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