As the cycle of nature renews and flowers begin to bloom, seasonal allergies emerge. Millions are affected each year as spring unfolds and the sneezing commences. However, it can sometimes be difficult to pinpoint exactly what is causing the allergic reaction and how to treat it when identified.
In this post, we’ll explore seasonal allergies, what their signs and symptoms look like, and how to treat them/seek additional help.
Most commonly known as “hay fever,” allergic rhinitis happens when pollen becomes airborne in the spring and releases tiny grains to fertilize plants. Grass, weeds and trees all carry pollen. This pollen release triggers a reaction in the immune system for those who are sensitive to it. The immune system overreacts by making Immunoglobulin E antibodies, which induces typical allergy symptoms.
Mold is also sometimes classified as a seasonal allergy, as the release of spores is often linked to asthma and creates a similar experience in those who are allergic.
Signs and Symptoms of Seasonal Allergies
Seasonal allergy symptoms can include any or all of the following:
- Itchy, watery eyes
- Postnasal drip
- Dark under-eye circles
- Sore throat
- Ear discomfort/blockage
- Shortness of breath
- Asthma attack (in the most severe cases)
Of course, anyone who has seasonal allergies experiences them in their own way and not only may the symptoms vary, but the severity of the symptoms can be vastly different as well.
Allergy Tests and Treatments
If you’re unsure of what exactly is triggering your allergy symptoms, it may be time to see a medical professional and take an allergy test. The allergist may perform a scratch test, where they scratch your forearm to determine what substances cause a reaction; alternately they could draw blood to detect and measure allergen-specific antibodies in your system. Both methods are safe and frequently used to determine how best to treat symptoms.
Once you know what is causing your symptoms, you and your allergist can determine the best seasonal allergy treatments to provide relief. Several common treatments include:
Limiting exposure. If you can identify where your triggers occur, you can do your best to minimize contact with them by avoiding that area. That may mean refraining from certain outdoor activities or keeping doors and windows closed when the pollen count is elevated.
Wearing a mask. If you must go outdoors, purchase an inexpensive dust mask from your local pharmacy or drugstore to breathe through while you are exposed to potential allergens.
Bathing after exposure. When you are unable to limit exposure to allergens, washing them off your body and out of your hair are crucial to keeping symptoms at bay.
Cleaning surfaces vigilantly. The grains and spores that cause allergic reactions can travel and land on indoor surfaces. Be sure to vacuum and dust regularly to avoid buildup of the offensive particles.
Laundering clothes and bedding often. Perhaps more often than you would other times of year, be sure to wash sheets, pillowcases and clothing that may contain allergen particles transferred by your body or hair.
Using a dehumidifier. If mold is a trigger for you, reducing the moisture in the air will help to considerably reduce the chances of it growing nearby.
Taking over-the-counter medicines. There are many decongestants, antihistamines, eye drops and nasal sprays that can bring lasting relief for a number of common seasonal allergy symptoms.
Taking prescription medicines. For more severe cases, an allergist or immunologist can prescribe steroid nasal sprays and other stronger medicines that can’t be obtained over the counter.
Exploring natural remedies. Some find relief from acupuncture, eating local honey and adding specific herbs to meals.
Getting Immunotherapy. With this method of treatment, your allergist will administer a regular series of shots to make your immune system more resistant to the allergens.
For Additional Relief
If you’re unsure exactly what you’re allergic to, or can’t find relief using recommended at-home treatments, the Ears, Nose & Throat Allergy/Audiology specialists at Western Washington Medical Group can provide comprehensive testing and treatments. Or, for more general inquiries, complete the contact form to seek additional information.