Spring means warmer temps, blooming plants and freshly cut grass. For many of us, it’s a welcome change from winter. But for the 17 million American adults and more than 7 million children with seasonal allergies, it’s a challenging time of year.
Seasonal allergies typically occur in the spring, summer and fall. They are mainly triggered by pollen and mold from grasses, trees and weeds. Typically tree pollen is higher during the spring, grass pollen during the summer and ragweed during the fall. Mold is elevated from the spring through the fall, especially after a rainfall.
Your allergy type determines the type of symptoms you experience:
- Allergic rhinitis: runny nose; sneezing; nasal and sinus congestion; itchy, red, watery eyes; cough; post-nasal drip; throat clearing; itchy mouth
- Asthma: cough, wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness
- Skin: hives, rashes
Although some people are successful with managing their symptoms using over-the-counter medications, it’s a good idea to check in with your primary care provider or an allergist. He or she will review your health history, conduct a physical exam and may recommend allergy testing – either skin or blood testing.
The good news is that there are several treatment options for those suffering from allergies. The first – and best – option is avoidance. If you can steer clear of the thing that causes your allergic reaction, you can prevent symptoms from occurring. For example, this may mean keeping your windows closed during peak allergy seasons or taking a shower to wash away any allergens after you’re in for the day.
If avoidance isn’t enough, medication may help. Both over-the-counter and prescription medications are available. These come in the form of pills, nasal sprays and eye drops and need to be used on a daily basis.
Allergy shots are a third option and reduce symptoms in about 85 percent of people with allergic rhinitis. The shots work by slowly increasing doses of a specific allergen. The buildup takes about six months, after which patients enter the maintenance phase and come in every four weeks for three to five years.
Making lifestyle modifications is another way to manage symptoms. Here are a few things you can try:
- Keep windows closed during pollen season, especially during the day.
- Identify which pollens you’re sensitive to and keep track of pollen counts.
- During the spring and summer – tree and grass pollen season – levels tend to be highest during the evening.
- In the late summer and early fall – ragweed season – levels tend to be highest in the morning.
- Take a shower and change your clothes after being outdoors.
- Avoid hanging laundry outside to dry.
- If your pets go outside, bathe them on a regular basis.
- Have someone else take over lawn mowing and other outdoor chores.
Edward-Elmhurst Health is available to help you identify underlying allergy triggers to help prevent symptoms. By anticipating triggers and symptoms, we can implement a treatment plan early to help our patients improve their quality of life.