Spring and summer are wonderful seasons, but for many of us, they come with a downside: seasonal allergies. Pollen and other airborne allergens can make us feel terrible, with symptoms ranging from a runny nose and itchy eyes to sneezing and coughing.
Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to manage these symptoms and cope with pollen and hay fever. Let’s discuss the causes of seasonal allergies, the symptoms they can cause, and the various available treatment options.
Understanding Seasonal Allergies
Seasonal allergies, also known as hay fever, are a common ailment affecting millions of people around the globe. These allergies occur when the body’s immune system overreacts to environmental triggers.
Seasonal allergies are typically linked to the changing seasons and affect a significant portion of the population – nearly 8 percent of Americans experience seasonal allergies such as allergic rhinitis.
In the United States, spring allergies usually begin in February and persist until early summer. This period sees tree pollination, followed by grass pollination.
Ragweed is a common cause of fall allergies. It blooms and releases pollen from August to November. The peak pollen levels of ragweed are usually observed in early to mid-September.
In tropical climates, grass may pollinate throughout a significant portion of the year, causing prolonged allergy seasons for those sensitive to grass pollen.
Other plants that can trigger fall allergies include cocklebur, lamb’s-quarters, pigweed, burning bush, sagebrush and mugwort, tumbleweed, and Russian thistle.
Symptoms of Seasonal Allergies
Common symptoms of seasonal allergies include:
- Itchy eyes, nose and throat
- Runny nose and eyes
- Post-nasal drip
Some individuals may also experience itchy skin, and their eyes may become watery and bloodshot. It’s essential to recognize these symptoms early and consult an allergy doctor for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.
Managing Seasonal Allergies
While there’s no cure for seasonal allergies, various strategies can help manage the symptoms effectively.
One of the most effective ways to manage seasonal allergies is to avoid high exposure to allergens. Strategies may include outdoor precautions and indoor precautions:
- Avoid high pollen exposure – Refrain from activities such as mowing the lawn or handling moldy piles of leaves, especially when the weather is warm.
- Minimize outdoor activities during peak pollen times – Pollen counts tend to be highest in the early morning and late afternoon. If possible, plan your outdoor activities around these times.
- Wear protective clothing – Wearing glasses or sunglasses can minimize the amount of pollen that gets into your eyes. A mask can also reduce exposure to allergens.
- Keep windows and doors closed – This can prevent pollen from entering your home.
- Maintain indoor air quality – Use air conditioning to filter out pollen and keep indoor air clean. Regular vacuuming can also help keep allergen levels low.
- Avoid hanging clothing outdoors – Pollen may stick to towels, sheets, and other clothes left outside.
- Shower after being outdoors – This can help to wash away any pollen that may have clung to your hair or skin.
- Keep pets clean – Pets can bring pollen indoors on their fur. Regularly bathing and grooming your pets can help to reduce this risk.
Several types of medications are available to help manage these symptoms. These
Antihistamines work by blocking the action of histamine, a chemical released by your immune system during an allergic reaction. Common over-the-counter antihistamines include:
- Cetirizine (Zyrtec, Zyrtec Allergy)
- Fexofenadine (Allegra, Allegra Allergy)
- Levocetirizine (Xyzal, Xyzal Allergy)
- Loratadine (Alavert, Claritin)
Decongestants are drugs that can relieve nasal congestion. They are available both over the counter and by prescription and come in oral and nasal spray forms.
Corticosteroids are highly effective medications that relieve seasonal allergy-related swelling and inflammation. They are often used in nasal sprays and eye drops. Examples of corticosteroids include:
- Fluorometholone (Flarex, FML)
- Loteprednol (Alrex, LotemaxTM)
- Prednisolone (Omnipred, Pred Forte)
- Rimexolone (Vexol)
In addition to the above, other types of allergy medications may be recommended depending on the nature and severity of your symptoms. These may include leukotriene inhibitors, mast cell stabilizers, or immunomodulators.
Immunotherapy is a well-known preventive treatment for allergic reactions, including seasonal allergies. It has been recognized as a long-term solution, significantly decreasing symptoms for many people suffering from allergic rhinitis.
Allergen immunotherapy involves administering gradually increasing quantities of specific allergens to patients until a dose effective in increasing the patient’s tolerance to the allergens is reached. This therapy can target a wide variety of substances, such as grass pollen, house dust mites, and bee venom.
Allergy shots, or subcutaneous immunotherapy (SCIT), are the most familiar form of immunotherapy. Each allergy shot contains a small amount of the substances that trigger your allergic reactions. These shots are typically administered by an allergist.
Sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT) is a great alternative to allergy shots. It involves placing a tablet containing the allergen under the tongue for 1 to 2 minutes and then swallowing it.
Immunotherapy has been found to work effectively for hay fever and year-round allergic rhinitis, providing relief from allergy symptoms in the upper airways, including sneezing and a stuffy nose. Over time, your body learns to handle the allergen better, reducing the severity of your allergic reactions and, in some cases, eliminating them altogether.
Allergic Reaction Treatment in Downers Grove, Elmhurst, Naperville, and Plainfield, IL
If you experience severe or persistent allergy symptoms, consult with our board-certified allergy specialists at Oak Brook Allergists. We offer diagnosis and treatment for all types of allergies and asthma.
To arrange a consultation with one of our allergy doctors to treat your allergic reaction, call us today at (630) 574-0460 or use our convenient online appointment request form. We look forward to serving you!