Achoo! Allergy season has arrived in Boise. Here’s how to avoid Idaho’s most potent pollen

Idahoans are fortunate enough to live in a part of the world where they experience all seasons, from the bitterly cold winters to the scorching hot summers and everything in between.

Unfortunately, that also includes a time of year that affects over 100 million Americans: allergy season.

Allergy season, which typically starts at the beginning of spring in late February or early March, is already underway in Idaho. It can last until the first frost of the year, around October.

Although some parts of the country are worse than others for allergy sufferers, Boise’s pollen-producing plants aren’t slouching, either. A study by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America found that Boise ranks 50th in the nation for the severity of allergies, factoring in the amount of pollen in the air, how much medicine is used, and the number of specialists in an area.

Boise ranked around average for all three categories, totaling an overall score of 71.44 out of 100 — the national average score was 71.49, putting Boise right around the middle for allergy severity.

Wichita, Kansas, leads the way with a not-so-perfect score of 100, while seven of the top 20 cities for allergy season are in Florida.

Seven of the top 20 worst cities for allergy sufferers are in Florida. All top 20 cities are east of the Rocky Mountains.
Seven of the top 20 worst cities for allergy sufferers are in Florida. All top 20 cities are east of the Rocky Mountains.

According to the study, seasonal pollen allergy burdens fall on the eastern and southeast parts of the U.S. The southeast experiences longer pollen seasons because of a warmer climate, and the Eastern Seaboard has a robust ragweed season, according to Rohit Katial of the National Jewish Medical and Research Center in Colorado.

But Boise is helping carry the banner for the western U.S. The City of Trees is the fourth-highest-ranked city west of the Rocky Mountains, trailing only Las Vegas, Nevada (31st), Tucson, Arizona (43rd) and Riverside, California (49th).

Types of Boise allergy-causing weeds

Allergic rhinitis, known more commonly as hay fever, is one of the most common allergic conditions, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. About 26% of adults and 19% of children have been diagnosed with seasonal allergic rhinitis, with the most common symptoms being:

  • Sneezing

  • A stuffy nose due to blockage or congestion

  • Runny nose

  • Red and watery eyes

  • Itchy nose, ears, eyes or mouth

  • Swelling around the eyes

Tree, grass and weed pollen are the most common causes of seasonal allergies. Tree pollen is the first pollen to appear each year and is primarily responsible for allergies between February and June, according to the AAFA study.

Cottonwood trees are producing the most pollen right now in Boise, according to the Boise Valley Asthma and Allergy Clinic, but juniper, maple and sweet gum trees are also producing pollen.

Grass pollen is most common from April through early June but can overlap with tree and weed pollen seasons. Rye, timothy and orchard grasses are three of Idaho’s most common sources for producing grass pollen.

Lastly, weed season runs through the fall but peaks in mid-September. Ragweed is the most common perpetrator of weed allergies, according to the AAFA study, affecting about 15% of people in the U.S.

The study also ranked each city on how severe each type of pollen season is from one to 100. Boise ranked 40th for tree pollen, 53rd for grass pollen and 66th for weed pollen.

A bumblebee eats pollen at the Garden City Pollinator Habitat in Garden City.
A bumblebee eats pollen at the Garden City Pollinator Habitat in Garden City.

How to ease allergy symptoms

While several over-the-counter medications, such as Claritin and Allegra, can ease allergy symptoms, the AAFA study also offers at-home tips to relieve symptoms:

  • Check daily pollen counts or forecasts and plan outdoor activities on low pollen days, such as the Weather Channel’s 15-day pollen forecast.

  • Keep windows closed during peak pollen times.

  • Use air conditioning or air cleaners with HEPA filtration, which can remove at least 99.9% of pollen and other tiny airborne particles.

  • Remove your shoes before entering your home.

  • Limit close contact with pets that spend a lot of time outdoors and wipe down furry animals when they come indoors.

  • Dry your laundry in a dryer or indoor rack, not on an outdoor line.

  • Wear a mask outside to prevent pollen from entering your nose and mouth.

  • Wear sunglasses to limit the pollen that gets into your eyes.

  • Cover your hair with a hat or some other covering, so pollen doesn’t collect in your hair.

  • Change and wash your clothes after outdoor activities.

  • Shower before bed to keep pollen out of your bedding.

  • Wash your bedding once a week in hot, soapy water.

  • Clean your blinds and curtains regularly.

  • Vacuum any carpenters, rugs and fabric furniture once a week.