The arrival of spring means warmer temperatures, green grass, and flowers in bloom—a welcome change after a long winter. But if you suffer from allergies, you may be less enthused since seasonal changes can lead to itchy, watery eyes, sneezing, and sniffling.

Think spring showers will help wash all that pollen away? Not so fast. According to doctors, rain can actually make allergies worse. Ahead, allergists explain why the weather change can spur uncomfortable symptoms, plus how to find relief.

How does rain make allergies worse?

Initially, a spring shower can seem like a good thing: “The pollen that’s in the air may cling to rain drops and literally get washed from the air,” says allergy and immunology expert, Stanley Schwartz PhD.

But rain can also break up pieces of pollen on the ground, spreading them further. “The pollen grains can rupture, and you get these fragments that remain in the air for quite some time,” explains Dr Catherine Monteleone, an allergist and immunologist. “Those can get deep into your nose and lungs and cause allergy symptoms.”

Rain can also indirectly make pollen counts worse by nourishing the plants that release pollen into the air, Dr Schwartz says. “Rain and warm weather all stimulate flowering plants, leading to more luxuriant plant growth,” he says. “If you have a good warm and wet season, the pollen counts can end up being very high.”

Grass and weed pollen can be especially triggering for allergy sufferers, says Dr Purvi Parikh, an allergist and immunologist. “For some people, it can be dangerous and trigger serious breathing issues and asthma attacks,” she notes.

In rare situations, thunderstorms can trigger asthma attacks due to a phenomenon known as “thunderstorm asthma,” which is when a combination of air flow, humidity, and electricity stir up pollen in the air, triggering symptoms in some people.

How long will allergy symptoms feel worse after rain?

You’ll likely experience an increase in symptoms for up to 12 hours after the rain clears, depending on wind conditions, Dr Monteleone says. The storm can also trigger a reaction that will last days or even weeks “if not properly treated,” Dr Parikh adds.

What can you do to alleviate your allergy symptoms?

You’ll want to take the same steps you would on high pollen days. Here’s how to keep your allergy symptoms at bay:

  • Keep your windows closed. Doing so will help keep pollen out of your home, where it can aggravate your symptoms, Dr Monteleone says.
  • Turn on your air conditioning. This should help filter out any pollen that may be lingering in the air and keep you cool without needing to open your windows.
  • Stay indoors when it’s raining. Staying out of the storm is particularly important during heavy rains, Dr Monteleone says, since pollen fragments are immediately released into the air.
  • Take your allergy meds. Whether it’s a long-acting medication or one meant for short-term relief, make sure you’re taking your allergy medication as prescribed, Dr Parikh says.
  • Wear a mask when you go outside. Turns out, the face mask you’ve been wearing to reduce the spread of COVID-19 can also help protect you from pollen particles in the air, Dr Monteleone says.
  • Put on a pair of sunglasses. Wearing sunglasses can help keep pollen out of your face and eyes, Dr Monteleone notes.

If you find that your allergy symptoms aren’t getting any better, it might be time to talk to your doctor.