Spring means blooming trees, flower buds, and green grass, but for those with seasonal allergies, it also means sneezing, congestion, runny nose, and other annoying symptoms. Seasonal allergies, also called allergic rhinitis and hay fever, can make you miserable. Learn more about seasonal allergies and simple strategies to keep seasonal allergies under control.
What are seasonal allergies?
An allergy is an abnormal sensitivity to a substance. For some people, this substance – or allergen – causes no symptoms. With people or children with allergies, the immune system creates an antibody, which then creates symptoms. Seasonal allergies occur mainly in the spring in fall, when pollen from trees, grasses and weeds are in the air. Allergy symptoms can range from mildly irritating to having a profound impact on your quality of life. Allergy symptoms can include runny nose, post-nasal drip, sneezing, congestion, coughing, and itchy or watery eyes.
What can you do to reduce exposure to seasonal allergies?
To reduce exposure to allergens, stay indoors on dry, windy days. Don’t do activities that stir up allergens such as lawn mowing or gardening. Remove clothes that you’ve worn outside and make sure to shower after being outside to remove the pollen from your hair and skin. Other things you can do to help reduce your exposure are to check daily pollen forecasts and current pollen levels and close doors and windows at night or any other time the pollen count is high.
Avoid outdoor activity in the early morning when the pollen counts are highest. Keeping the indoor air clean is an important part of reducing exposure to pollen. Use the air conditioner in your house and car, use high efficiency filters, and follow the maintenance guidelines. Use a dehumidifier to keep the air dry. Use a portable high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter in the bedrooms.
How can you treat seasonal allergies?
There are several over-the-counter medications that are available to treat seasonal allergies. It is important to start allergy treatments approximately one month before the season starts.
Oral antihistamines – Antihistamines, such as Claritin, Zyrtec, and Allegra, can help relieve sneezing, itching, a runny nose and watery eyes.
Decongestants – Oral decongestants, such as Sudafed, can provide temporary relief from nasal stuffiness. There are also nasal spray decongestants such as Afrin and Neo-Synephrine. Nasal decongestants can only be used for a few days in a row. Longer-term use of nasal decongestants can actually make symptoms worse.
Nasal sprays – Cromolyn sodium nasal spray, such as Flonase, can help ease allergy symptoms
Combination medications – Some allergy medications such as Claritin-D and Allegra-D, combine both an antihistamine with a decongestant.
When do you need to see an allergist?
For many people, avoiding allergens and taking over-the-counter medications is enough to ease allergy symptoms. If you are consistently taking over-the-counter medications but still having significant symptoms, it may be time to see an allergist. An allergist is a medical practitioner specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of allergies. An allergist may suggest skin or blood tests to determine what exactly you are allergic to. Testing can help determine what steps are next to help avoid your specific triggers and identify the best treatment for you.