Allergy season starts early. Here's how to stop pollen from affecting your spring

FILE-A man with hay fever uses a handkerchief for his nose standing next to a shrub. (Photo by Angelika Warmuth/picture alliance via Getty Images)

With allergy season starting sooner than expected, Americans are bracing for the level of pollen depending on where they live. 

Citing the Asthma Allergy Foundation of America, the Associated Press noted that more than 80 million people in the U.S. deal with itchy eyes, runny nose and other symptoms of seasonal allergies. 

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One Chicago-area doctor started looking at pollen counts early, and data she examined from February showed that  tree pollen was already at a "moderate" level.

Dr. Rachna Shah tells the AP this allergy season will be longer than other years, depending on if the weather stays warm. Experts say climate change has led to longer and more intense allergy seasons.

Which pollens can cause allergies?

Three types of pollen can cause seasonal allergies. Tree pollen pops ups in early spring, grasses pollinate, and weeds appear late in the summer and early fall.

The most common tree pollens causing allergies include birch, cedar, cottonwood, maple, elm, oak and walnut, per the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Grasses causing these symptoms include Bermuda, Johnson, rye and Kentucky bluegrass.

RELATED: Here are the worst spring allergens that will make you cough, sneeze and rub your watery eyes

How can I relieve allergy symptoms?

Dr. Nana Mireku, an allergist in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, tells the AP that people should be aware of what they might be allergic to. 

Shah explained to the AP that over-the-counter nasal sprays can help relieve symptoms, but they take a while to kick in, and it's ideal to start using them in early March. 

Antihistamines are also an option, but Shah shares with the AP that some patients benefit from changing to a similar brand if one stops working, but noted that there's not much data to support this recommendation.

Young kids and individuals who take different allergy medications, immunotherapies in a version of shots and oral drops can help lower sensitivity in the immune system to allergens, treating symptoms at its core, the AP reported. 

Which U.S. cities are challenging to live in for allergy sufferers?

The top five cities in 2024 that are a challenge to live in if you have allergies are:

  1. Wichita, Kansas
  2. Virginia Beach, Virginia
  3. Greenville, South Carolina
  4. Dallas
  5. Oklahoma City

These areas listed are from an annual report by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation ranking the most challenging cities for Americans to live in if they have allergies.

According to the AP, the organization's data is based on over-the-counter medicine use, pollen counts and the number of available allergy specialists. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. This story was reported from Washington, D.C.