ACHOO! 5 Things You Need to Know About Pesky Seasonal Allergies
If the sight of blooming flowers and trees brings a tear to your eye and a tickle to your nose, it’s probably not caused by the beauty of Mother Nature. Beautiful blooms are the warning sign for allergy season – their pollen, when released into the air, can trigger sneezing, congestion, itchy and watery eyes, and a runny nose.
If you’re a seasonal allergy sufferer, here’s what you need to know about why you’re struggling with annoying symptoms and what you can do to relieve them.
1. Your allergy symptoms are caused by your immune system
Symptoms of allergies are triggered by the immune system reacting or overreacting to a stimulus. In the case of seasonal allergies, the stimulus is the allergen pollen or dust.
“The immune system misidentifies the allergen and reacts as if it were a pathogen by creating antibodies, thus causing symptoms similar to those we experience when sick with a virus,” said William Callahan, DO, an Abington-Jefferson Health Family Medicine practitioner.
2. Whether you suffer from seasonal allergies is also dictated by your immune system
“Some people have a genetic predisposition,” Dr. Callahan said. “Others get exposed to an allergen while already sick, which may increase their likelihood of developing a full blown allergy.”
3. It’s easy to confuse your allergies with a cold
Colds and seasonal allergies have some similar symptoms, including congestion and a runny nose, making it easy to confuse which you’re suffering from.
“The best way to tell the difference between symptoms of a cold and allergies is time. Most colds resolve within a week to 10 days, whereas allergies tend to hang around,” Dr. Callahan said.
Seasonal allergies can last days, weeks or even months – they persist for as long as you’re in contact with the allergen.
4. How to control symptoms
“While medicines can help, you should prevent contact with allergens to help avoid symptoms altogether,” Dr. Callahan said. “This includes avoiding outdoor activities during periods of high allergen activity, periodic face washing after being outside and taking evening showers to wash away any allergens that may have accumulated.”
Pollen counts tend to be highest in the morning, especially on dry days. The worst time to be outside is during dry, windy mornings when the air is filled with pollen. Additionally, there are some days that have higher pollen counts than others. You can find out when allergen levels are at their highest by watching your local weather forecast or the Weather Channel.
5. Over-the-counter medicines can help relieve symptoms
Some over-the-counter medicines work well for allergies, including Claritin for mild allergic symptoms and Allegra for more persistent symptoms, according to Dr. Callahan.
“Another option is steroid nasal sprays, such as Flonase, which decrease inflammation in the nasal passages and sinuses, thereby decreasing symptoms,” he said.
For a referral to an Abington - Jefferson Health physician, please call 215-481-MEDI (6334) or search our online directory.