Chicago area allergies: Pollen counts, and how to find relief

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Early September is prime time for allergies in the Chicago area, with residents dealing with itchy eyes, runny noses and all manner of unpleasant symptoms.

Many allergens hit their worst levels of the year during the late summer and early fall, including ragweed, nettle and more, according to experts.

So how can you tell when allergens will be at their worst? Are different weather patterns responsible for increasing pollen counts? How can you find relief?

Here’s a rundown of what you need to know.

What are the pollen counts, and where can I find information on them?

According to, Monday’s pollen count was a 10.4, which is considered to be at a “high level.”

Tuesday’s pollen count was at 9.6, and Wednesday’s is forecast to be around 8.7, which is considered “medium-high.”

Pollen counts represent how much pollen is in the air, and is given in terms of "grains of pollen per cubic meter," according to Jax Allergy.

Pollen is measured on a scale of 0-to-12, with a high-level usually defined as anything above a 9.7, according to experts.

The top allergens in the Chicago area are ragweed, chenopods and nettle, according to the website.

Ragweed typically blooms and releases pollen from August to November, with the highest pollen levels in early-to-mid September, according to ACAAI.

Other allergens that typically peak during the late summer and early fall include pigweed, sagebrush and burning bush, according to the website.

When are pollen counts at their worst?

There are specific weather conditions where pollen counts can rise, and those counts can even fluctuate depending on the time of day. According to Zyrtec, pollen counts can fluctuate throughout the day, and are generally highest in the midday hours. Pollen counts then typically decrease throughout the day.

Windy and warm conditions typically produce the highest pollen counts, and those who are sensitive to allergens are encouraged to limit outdoor activities during those times.

What are the typical symptoms of allergies?

According to experts, typical symptoms include itchy eyes, nose, mouth or throat, as well as sneezing, coughing, runny nose, a headache and irritated ears.

A sore throat and swollen eyes can also occur.

How can I relieve allergy symptoms?

To help address allergies, experts recommend that people remove their clothes that they’ve worn outside, and to shower in the afternoon or evening to rinse pollen from skin and hair.

Taking allergy medications can also help, especially before periods where pollen counts are likely to be high, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Oral antihistamines, corticosteroid nasal sprays and cromolyn sodium nasal spray are all available over-the-counter, and can help reduce symptoms.

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