What you need to know about seasonal allergies and what you can do to help manage them.
What are seasonal allergies?
Seasonal allergies can happen if you are sensitive to something in the environment - such as dust, mold, pollen, grass or other plants. You may have seasonal allergies if you get symptoms during a particular time of year. Depending on the climate you live in, your "seasonal" allergies may actually happen all year long. Common allergens include tree and grass pollens, ragweed, pigweed, mold, and sagebrush. Other triggers depending on the season may include chlorine from pools, smoke from fires, or wreaths and pine trees kept indoors.
Seasonal allergies are different than more severe allergic reactions (called anaphylaxis). In both cases your immune system is overreacting to a particular substance in your environment, but anaphylaxis-type allergic reactions can actually cause death if left untreated. Common substances known to cause anaphylaxis in some people include bee stings and peanuts. Remember what happened to Vada in the movie My Girl? That was anaphylaxis, not just a simple seasonal allergy.
What are the symptoms of seasonal allergies?
While the symptoms can vary from person to person, common symptoms of seasonal allergies include:
- Itchy, watery eyes
- Itchy or sore throat
- Runny nose
How are seasonal allergies diagnosed?
Typically a doctor can make a diagnosis of seasonal allergies based on your symptoms and triggers. In some cases, a specialist in allergies (called an immunologist) may do a series of skin or blood tests to see which particular substances you are allergic to.
How can I treat my seasonal allergies?
There are several ways that you can help fight the symptoms of seasonal allergies. Easy approaches can include:
- Avoiding the trigger
- -Keeping the windows shut during times of exposure
- Avoiding drying laundry outside in warmer months
- Reducing indoor triggers such as live wreaths or evergreen trees
If those simple techniques don’t help you may want to try an over the counter medicine. There are several options to choose from:
- Antihistamines (Zyrtec, Benadryl, Claritin)
- -Saline nasal spray or a sinus rinse
- Steroid nasal sprays (Flonase, Nasocort)
- Decongestant nasal sprays containing oxymetazoline or phenylephrine
You may need to talk with a doctor to explore other treatments like:
- Allergy shots
- Prescription allergy medicines
What if my allergies get really severe?
In the vast majority of cases, seasonal allergies, while annoying, shouldn’t cause symptoms so severe you have trouble functioning. If you ever experience the following symptoms, a trip to the ER or Urgent Care is the best idea:
- Trouble breathing or swallowing
- Tongue swelling
- Coughing up blood
- Lightheadedness, passing out, or fainting
- Confusion or weakness