Advance with MUSC Health

A Mess of Pollen: Surviving Spring Allergies in South Carolina

Advance With MUSC Health
March 21, 2022
Dr. Maria Streck

Spring in South Carolina is beautiful but not as delightful for allergy sufferers. Beginning in mid-late February, tree pollen season is in full force, and with that comes a lot of misery. In fact, allergies are the sixth largest cause of chronic illness in the nation, affecting 20% of Americans. They can be passed down genetically and developed at any age, and occasionally cause ongoing, severe reactions that may prompt a visit to your doctor.

MUSC Health’s Dr. Maria Streck answers frequently asked questions about surviving spring allergies in South Carolina.

What are allergies, and why do I have them?

Allergies result from an immune system reaction to allergens, things some people are not allergic to save for that unlucky 50 million Americans. When an allergic person encounters something they are allergic to, different chemicals (including histamine) are released. The reaction you feel — affecting everything from the eyes and nose to throat, lungs, skin, and gastrointestinal tract — is caused by the release of those chemicals.

What causes spring allergies in South Carolina?

Tree pollen and grass pollen are both prevalent this time of year, but tree pollen is the main culprit for the majority of allergy sufferers in the spring. Specifically, you can probably blame oak, pine, willow, and birch trees for your frustrations.

How do I keep track of pollen counts in South Carolina?

Did you know that there are two certified pollen-counting stations in the state? Our very own state capital, Columbia, happens to be ranked the 19th most challenging place to live with spring allergies. To see what the count is on any given day in your area or elsewhere in the country, check out

How can I manage spring allergies in South Carolina?

  • Shower after being outside: A day of yardwork, for example, warrants a shower immediately after if you’re allergic to pollen.
  • Wear a mask while doing yard work.
  • Regularly change heating and A/C filters.
  • Utilize an air purifier.
  • Keep windows closed during the pollen season.

When will there be a relief?

If Mother’s Day isn’t already marked on your calendar, here’s a reason to put it on there: tree pollen season tends to die down around the beginning to mid-May, so know that relief is coming. But aware of allergens in August, when hayfever — or ragweed — becomes the new enemy, causing symptoms until the early frost of fall.

When do I worry about my allergy symptoms?

  • You may want to schedule an appointment with your doctor if:
    • Your symptoms are ongoing and debilitating (for example, it’s hard or impossible to work or sleep), particularly if you are experiencing a lot of sinus infections, headaches, and earaches.
    • Over-the-counter medications haven’t helped.

How do I get allergy help?

If severe symptoms persist over a long period of time, you can seek out relief through a professional and schedule an appointment with an allergist. Because your physician knows you, they are the best person to assess your situation, prescribe medications, recommend over-the-counter medications, or refer you to a specialist for allergy testing and a more detailed treatment plan.

Dr. Maria Streck is a board certified Allergist/Immunologist specializing in allergies at the Medical University of South Carolina.