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Battling Seasonal Allergies in the Pacific Northwest


Spring and summer in the Pacific Northwest… the sun is shining, the birds are singing and the flowers are blooming. Unfortunately, that pesky pollen is also out, wreaking havoc on your eyes, nose, ears and throat. Some people have come to just accept their seasonal allergy symptoms and have given up on any hope of relief. But if you’re tired of the itchy, watery eyes, sore throat and nasal congestion, this article is for you.

When is pollen most prevalent?

The Pacific Northwest is considered a temperate climate, with tree pollen most prevalent from February to April. Grass pollen bombards us from May to July and then weed pollen delivers the final blow in August and September. Now, the bad news. Since we were treated to a mild winter this year, the pollen season arrived earlier than normal, and we will likely also have a long and burdensome allergy season ahead of us. To make things worse, the Pacific Northwest has some of the highest pollen counts in the United States, especially for trees and grasses.

How do I know if I have allergies or a common cold?

Common colds occur when a virus enters your body and then your immune system goes on the attack to try to eliminate it. Allergies, on the other hand, occur when your body mistakes a harmless substance (such as dust or pollen), for germs and then sends your immune system to attack it. The table below can help you determine if the symptoms you’re suffering through are being caused by a common cold or by allergies.





3-14 days

Days to months — as long as you are exposed to the allergen

Time of Year

Most often in the winter, but possible at any time

Any time of the year — although the appearance of some allergens are seasonal

Onset of symptoms

Symptoms take a few days to appear after infection with the virus.

Symptoms can begin immediately after exposure to the allergen
















Itchy, watery eyes



Sore throat



Runny or stuffy nose

Often; usually yellow mucus

Often; usually clear mucus

I’m miserable. What can I do?

The only sure way to prevent seasonal allergy symptoms is to avoid pollen. But for most people, staying indoors from February until October is not a realistic solution. Here are some feasible ways to best avoid pollen:

  1. Plan outdoor activities for morning or evening, since allergies tend to be worse in the middle of the day.
  2. Wear sunglasses and a hat to keep pollen out of your eyes and off your face.
  3. When you sleep at night, make sure your bed is away from the window. If this is not possible or desirable, just be sure to close your window at night.

If you find yourself unable to avoid the pollen, or if your symptoms continue to persist, you may need to begin an allergy treatment. Here are some examples of over-the-counter treatments that may work for you:

  1. Antihistamines. Generics will do and can be cost-effective. Be sure to take them prior to any outdoor activities.
  2. Neti Pot. Rinsing your sinuses daily with a saltwater solution reduces nasal secretions and congestion.
  3. Decongestants. Since eye symptoms are primarily related to congestion, taking a decongestant will help your eyes without the need for eye drops.

Even though most people are able to combat their allergies by avoiding pollen and/or using over-the-counter treatments, others still struggle to find relief for their symptoms. If your life is impaired by allergies and all other treatments have failed, it may be time to talk to your Sound Family Medicine provider about prescription medications. Below is a list of treatments that your provider may prescribe:

  • Intranasal steroid sprays
  • Antihistamines
  • Eye drops
  • Cromolyn
  • Allergy Shots

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