Here’s How You Can Win The War Against Seasonal Allergies

Most of us know the frustration of not being able to get a handle on our allergies when the season arrives. It’s a sneezing, runny nose, congested and plain old miserable time of year for many people. Maybe you grab the first box of antihistamine on your pharmacy’s shelf that you find and take it home to help that misery. Some of us may even have to see our doctors to get adequate relief. But beyond the annoying symptoms of seasonal allergies, do you really know what causes them and why? Here are the most important things you need to know about your seasonal allergies and how you can fight back against them.

What Causes Seasonal Allergies?

Seasonal allergies also referred to as allergic rhinitis and hay fever, are our bodies’ way of trying to protect us. When your body encounters a foreign substance, such as pollen your immune system reacts. It’s because of the antibodies our immune systems create that we experience symptoms. This is due to our immune system making antibodies that identify certain allergens as a threat even though they aren’t. When triggered, our immune system’s reaction can cause our skin, sinuses, airways, or even our digestive systems to become inflamed and we are flooded with the chemical histamine. Sometimes, the symptoms are what we feel with seasonal allergies, but other times, it can become a life-threatening emergency such as anaphylaxis.

Common Symptoms Of Seasonal Allergies

  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Watery, or red, swollen eyes
  • Itching of the nose, throat, eyes, or mouth
  • Sneezing
  • Asthma

When Is Allergy Season?

In the United States, spring allergies start in February and last until early summer. This is usually tree pollen, followed by grass pollen. Ragweed, a plant that grows wild in almost all places, appears in late summer and fall. It’s especially common on the East Coast and Midwest. During August, it blooms and releases its pollen till November. Its peak, however, is in September. There are many factors that can cause seasons to be harsher, including mild winter temperatures that cause plants to pollinate earlier than normal and rainy springs that trigger rapid plant growth and the escalation of molds.

Other Fall Allergies Include

  • Cocklebur
  • Pigweed
  • Burning bush
  • Lamb’s-quarters
  • Sagebrush
  • Mugwort
  • Tumbleweed
  • Russian thistle

 What Is Oral Allergy Syndrome?

Oral allergy syndrome (OAS) happens when allergens cross-react after they are found in both pollen and vegetables, fruits, and nuts such as tree nuts. Our bodies will recognize the pollen as a threat and then create an allergic reaction. For example, if you eat an apple or celery, you may experience itching in your throat and mouth because you are allergic to birch pollen. The proteins found in some fruits and vegetables can be very similar to those in pollen. In general, our bodies react immediately, and we feel the symptoms, although rarely symptoms can appear after an hour.

Those with oral allergy syndrome are usually allergic to the following:

  • Birch
  • Ragweed
  • Grass pollens

Complications Those Who Battle Seasonal Allergies May Face

If you have seasonal allergies, you may be at a higher risk for developing other allergies outside of pollen such as to different foods, environmental triggers, and substances. Seasonal allergies may also trigger other conditions.

Those Conditions May Look Like

  • Asthma
  • Sinusitis and infections of the ears
  • Infections of the lungs
  • Oral allergy syndrome (OAS)
  • Anaphylaxis

What Medications Should You Take For Allergies?

Most allergy medications can be found on your pharmacy’s shelf.

Here are a few choices

  • Antihistamines. These are medications that can reduce symptoms such as a runny and drippy nose, sneezing and itching, and alleviate watery eyes.
  • Decongestants. These medications offer temporary relief especially for nasal stuffiness, which is a very common symptom of seasonal allergies. With these medications, you should only use them for a few days at a time.
  • Nasal spray. This is a great option for limited side effects but is best used before the symptoms are kicking in.

What About Immunotherapy For Allergies?

Getting on allergy shots to gradually allow your body to become immune to your allergens may be a good option for you. Over time and with exposure, your body builds a tolerance to your allergies, and you may experience fewer symptoms.

Ways You Can Reduce Triggers In Your Daily Life:

  • Check the weather where you live for pollen counts, and if it’s high, start taking your allergy medication before going outdoors.
  • Avoid going outside on dry and windy days, and only go out when the air is clean from pollen such as after it rains.
  • Stay inside till after morning hours when pollen levels are particularly high
  • If need be, wear a mask while outdoors.
  • Change your clothes when you return from being outside and shower to wash the pollen off of your skin and out of your hair.
  • If possible, have someone else do yardwork for you.
  • Don’t hang out sheets, towels, or other linens outdoors to dry as they will collect pollen and other allergens.
  • Close your windows at night.

Try A Neti Pot

Rinse your nose out with things like a neti pot or squeeze bottle. It can help relieve nasal congestion by directly flushing out mucus and allergens from your nasal passages. The water you use needs to be sterile, so either use distilled water, boil it and let it cool, or use filtered water for this.

What Are Other Common Allergies For Those Outside Of Seasonal Allergies?

It’s quite common that those who suffer from seasonal allergies are also allergic to other substances.

Here are some common ones:

  • Animal dander
  • Dust mites
  • Mold
  • Inset stings such as from a bee
  • Certain foods like peanuts, some tree nuts, wheat, soy, shellfish, fish, eggs, and milk

The good news is that most allergy medications will do the trick in getting ahead of your symptoms. If you do not receive relief from these medications or trying out these recommendations, it’s time to visit your doctor. Your doctor may refer you to an allergy specialist that can run certain tests to see what specific allergies you have and come up with a treatment plan that is best for you. As with any of your health concerns, advocating for yourself and speaking to your doctor is important in that doctor and patient relationship. Speak up and search for relief. You do not have to lose the war of seasonal allergies, and you can come out of that battle as the victor.

References

Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2020, April 16). Seasonal allergies: Nip them in the bud. Mayo Clinic.

Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2020, August 4). Allergies. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/allergies/symptoms-causes/syc-20351497.

Pollen food allergy syndrome. ACAAI Public Website. (2020, June 1). https://acaai.org/allergies/types/food-allergies/types-food-allergy/oral-allergy-syndrome.

Pollen food allergy syndrome. ACAAI Public Website. (2020, June 1). https://acaai.org/allergies/types/food-allergies/types-food-allergy/oral-allergy-syndrome.