They are a reaction of the body’s immune system to irritating particles in the air, and millions of people are affected by them.
Allergy sufferers become more susceptible to allergens during this season.
In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about one in four adults and one in five children suffer from seasonal allergies.
Also known as hay fever or allergic rhinitis, a seasonal allergy is characterized by causing discomfort in the facial area.
Among its main symptoms are: sneezing, runny nose, nasal congestion, watery eyes, as well as itching around the nose, eyes and ears.
Five of the most common questions about seasonal allergies
- What are the symptoms?
These allergies can affect the nose and eyes and cause congestion and sneezing, itchy eyes, sore throat and fatigue.
- Symptoms can be triggered in certain seasons by pollen, such as tree pollen in spring and ragweed pollen in fall.
They may be unrelated to the seasons if they are triggered by exposure to dust or animals that emit allergens throughout the year.
- Some allergy sufferers develop allergic asthma, in which inflammation is concentrated in the lower airways. This can manifest as shortness of breath or wheezing.
- Who is prone to suffer them?
Allergic rhinitis, seasonal or non-seasonal, occurs in people who are genetically predisposed but also re-exposed to environmental triggers. Symptoms can be made worse by other factors such as stress, air pollution, and smoking.
- What is the best way to control them?
Allergies have no cure. But they can be controlled with prevention and treatment. The best way to manage allergic rhinitis is to first identify the triggers. These vary from person to person.
This can be assessed by visiting an allergist, who might perform skin or blood tests after taking a careful history. If tree pollen, for example, is identified as a trigger, exposure can be minimized by wearing hats and sunglasses outdoors, removing shoes, and showering when returning indoors. If it’s dusty, “avoiding sweeping and mopping or vacuuming can minimize exposure.
A second step is drug treatment. We currently have many medications to treat this problem.
- These can be nasal sprays, lozenges, or eye medications. They are usually well tolerated. If someone is intolerant of medications or has persistent symptoms, allergen immunotherapy may be considered, either through injections, known as allergy shots, or with medications administered under the tongue.
- What kind of medication can I take to relieve the symptoms?
Two of the main types of medications used to treat allergies are antihistamines and steroids. These medications are available without a prescription in the form of pills, nasal sprays, eye drops, and by prescription.
- Look for products that contain a non-drowsy antihistamine.
- Use a steroid nasal spray alone or along with an antihistamine to quickly clear the nasal passages. A saline rinse before using a nasal spray can help remove pollen and ensure better drug penetration.
- Itchy and watery eyes can be treated with artificial tears to remove pollen or with antihistamine eye drops.
- When should I see a doctor?
Environmental allergies can appear at any time in life and vary in frequency and severity. If symptoms are not easily controlled or not well understood, it is advisable to consult an allergist/immunologist. Symptomatic treatment in combination with prescribed medications can successfully treat most situations.
An allergist/immunologist can perform skin tests to see what specific substances a person is allergic to. If so, arrangements can be made for you to receive allergy shots to help desensitize you to the allergy-causing allergens. However, this takes time and does not immediately relieve symptoms.