The weather is starting to warm up as we head into spring – and with that warm weather comes seasonal allergies. Do you find yourself plagued by itchy eyes, a runny nose, and endless sneezing every time you venture outdoors in the spring? According to the CDC, you may be among the 7.7% of adults (and 7.2% of children) who experience allergic rhinitis – more commonly referred to as hay fever. While seasonal allergies can be unpleasant, there is a lot you can do to reduce your symptoms.
What causes seasonal allergies?
Seasonal allergies are caused by pollen from trees, grasses, and flowering plants. Unlike environmental allergies (allergies caused by food, insect bites/stings, dust, and pet dander, for example), seasonal allergies are triggered by changes in weather. While about ⅔ of people who suffer from seasonal allergies also suffer from at least one environmental allergy, there are many things you can do to reduce your seasonal allergy symptoms.
Common allergy symptoms and how to treat them at home
Most people with seasonal allergies experience a combination of respiratory symptoms (runny nose, sneezing, and/or coughing) and contact reactions (itchy eyes, hives and/or rashes). For some, these symptoms can be debilitating, while for others, it’s a minor inconvenience. Depending on the severity of your symptoms, there are many options for treating them:
- Over-the-counter allergy medication: Allergy pills such as Zyrtec or Claritin are often all it takes for people to find relief from hay fever. Sometimes you will need to try different formulations to find the one that works best for you. If pills alone are not enough or don’t work for you, nasal sprays such as Flonase or Nasacort can also offer relief by delivering medicine directly to your sinuses, where most allergy symptoms originate.
- Nasal rinses/Neti Pot: A non-medical option that works for many people is a daily nasal rinse using a Neti Pot or pre-packaged aerosol nasal spray. If using a Neti Pot or something similar, be sure to use filtered water to avoid introducing bacteria into your nasal cavity. You will also need to add saline to the water to avoid irritating the fragile sinus tissue.
- Avoiding allergens: Pollen counts are greatly affected by weather – wind will stir up pollen and lead to worse symptoms, while rain temporarily decreases pollen counts (although after rain, pollen counts generally skyrocket). Check your local weather report daily (or visit pollen.com) to see what the pollen count is in your area. If it’s high, consider staying indoors with the windows closed, if possible. An air purifier can also help reduce airborne pollen in your home, as will vacuuming (although vacuuming can also temporarily increase airborne pollen inside, being diligent about keeping carpets clean can reduce exposure in the long run). Further, if you must be outdoors when the pollen count is high, consider wearing an N95 mask – especially if you are mowing the lawn or doing other yardwork.
What to do if over-the-counter medication and prevention don’t work
For some people, at-home treatment won’t be enough to offer relief from allergy symptoms. If you are still suffering from hay fever despite taking the steps above, you may want to talk to your doctor or an allergy specialist about next steps. You might be offered allergy testing in the form of a blood test or skin test to figure out what is causing your symptoms; in some cases, you may discover that your allergies are both seasonal AND environmental, and treatment may vary depending on what you are allergic to. Your doctor might recommend a series of allergy shots to desensitize you to your allergens or may prescribe a stronger course of medication to keep your symptoms in check.
If you are suffering from seasonal allergies, we are here to help! Reserve a spot online or walk in today – no appointment needed.