Tips for Surviving Allergy Season

It’s spring, the weather’s getting warmer, and flowers are starting to bloom. For many, it’s the most blissful time of year. But for those 50 million Americans who suffer from nasal allergies, not so much.

When spring weather hits, all you can think about is how to stop sneezing! The new beginnings of allergy season are often accompanied by red eyes and a stuffy nose. Kleenex, anyone?

What’s Causing My Seasonal Allergies?

While there is no cure for seasonal allergies, there are ways to avoid triggers that cause you to flare up and treatments that can ease your seasonal allergy symptoms. Before exploring tips on how to manage allergies, however, let’s take a look at why you’re sneezing in the first place!

When is Allergy Season? 

While most people experience allergies in the spring, there are allergies that can pop up during any season, depending on what you are allergic to.

How to Cope with Hay Fever Symptoms

Regardless of whether your allergies are mild or severe, or if it is a skin or eye allergy, it doesn’t take long for you to start feeling lousy after seasonal allergy symptoms strike. So how do you prevent seasonal allergies from getting in the way of your day? Here are some helpful tips to reduce or keep symptoms from worsening.

Spring Allergies

During springtime, tree pollen is the most frequent culprit of spring allergies. Springtime is also coincidentally “pollen season” when pollination is at its peak.

Summer Allergies

Along with warmer weather, summer tends to bring grass pollen allergies. Allergies to both northern and southern types of grass such as timothy grass, ryegrass, and Kentucky bluegrass are common during this time.

Fall Allergies

Fall ragweed allergies begin to appear in August and can last until as late as November depending on the region you live in. Early risers should take caution because ragweed pollen levels are highest in the mornings.

Winter Allergies

Pollen counts from trees, grasses, and weeds typically decrease due to colder weather causing plants to die or become dormant. A majority of winter allergies are indoor allergies from allergens like dust, mites, mold spores, and pet dander.

Hay Fever

Seasonal allergic rhinitis – also called hay fever – is, unfortunately, one of the most common chronic diseases in the U.S., according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Plus, it’s an equal-opportunity disease, affecting people of all ages, both children and adults.

How to Cope with Hay Fever Symptoms

Regardless of whether your allergies are mild or severe, or if it is a skin or eye allergy, it doesn’t take long for you to start feeling lousy after seasonal allergy symptoms strike. So how do you prevent seasonal allergies from getting in the way of your day?

Here are some helpful tips to reduce or keep symptoms of hay fever from worsening.

  1. When symptoms flare up, use over-the-counter oral antihistamines to control day-to-day symptoms. Your provider can recommend good options for you.
  2. Consider nasal saline or irrigation to help flush out the nasal cavity and provide some relief.
  3. If you need additional suggestions, your provider can provide a variety of different treatments such as nasal spray, eye drops, or decongestants.
  4. Keep your home as allergen-free as possible. Wash linings regularly, keep windows closed during allergy season, and change the air filters in the house often.
  5. Consider allergy covers for your mattress and pillows, as these tend to collect dust or other allergens.

Is it Seasonal Allergies or Another Medical Condition?

Before you can properly treat allergic rhinitis, it’s best to determine that your symptoms are actually a reaction to allergens. After all, your nasal congestion could be a sign of a cold, sinus infection, or food allergy. Allergic pink eye conjunctivitis usually comes with seasonal allergies, is not contagious, and can be treated with normal allergy medications. The symptoms of these illnesses are similar, but there are some telltale differences that can help you pinpoint a correct diagnosis.

Colds and Sinus Infections

Colds and sinus infections often cause a runny nose with yellow or green discharge, whereas the mucus from allergies is clear and watery. Additionally, because a cold or sinus infection is caused by bacteria or a virus, you’re likely to have a fever with these. With allergies, even a low-grade fever is uncommon. If you’re experiencing sinus pressure, bad breath, and achy teeth, you likely have a sinus infection.

Food Allergies

Your allergies could also be caused by the foods you eat – even in a seasonal situation since some foods are only available seasonally. With food allergies, try an elimination diet to remove foods from your diet, one at a time, to see if your symptoms persist after a period of abstinence. Gluten, dairy, soy, refined sugars, peanuts, and eggs are some foods that tend to cause an allergic reaction. 

Duration of Illness and Symptoms

The duration of your illness can also be a clue as to what you have. Colds and sinus infections typically last two days to two weeks. Reactions to food allergies can last only a few hours; on the other hand, seasonal allergies can last anywhere from a couple of days to a few months depending on how long you’re exposed to an allergen.

Be Aware of High Pollen Counts

Chances are if the weather outside is rainy, cloudy, or windless, your allergies won’t act up as much. Only those with extreme sensitivity to pollen or mold will have symptoms when the pollen count is low. However, if the day’s warm, dry and windy, there’s a good possibility you’ll be symptomatic. 

To determine what the pollen and mold levels are in your geographic area, the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology’s National Allergy BureauÔ provides an allergen guide with accurate pollen counts.

Since pollen counts tend to be highest in the morning, with peak times in the middle of the day, it’s best to venture out in the late afternoon or early evening. If you’re planning on doing yard work, try wearing a mask. That marked N95 is approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health as being 95% effective at filtering out particles.

Also, if you’re planning on exercising outdoors, consider going after work and make sure to shower in the evening so your hair and skin are clean and you’re not sleeping in pollen.

Refrain from keeping your doors and windows open during allergy season. Instead, use an air conditioner with a HEPA filter to help you regulate your home’s temperatures. This goes for in the car as well where outdoor allergens may be getting into your air vents without the protection of a garage.

Take your shoes off at the door so you’re not tracking pollen or mold across your floors. If you have dogs or cats, make sure you wipe their paws and fur as well.

Choose easy-to-clean furnishings, flooring, curtains, and blinds if you are an indoor allergy sufferer. It’s not hard for dust, mold spores, pollen particles, and pet dander to collect, especially in crevices and hard-to-reach places.

Seasonal Allergy Treatment

Treatment for seasonal allergies is a multi-pronged approach. An allergist or other specialist may recommend that you use a combination of medications, behaviors, and treatments to give you relief from symptoms. 

Here are common and effective treatments that can help you get rid of seasonal allergies.

Over the Counter Remedies

If reducing your exposure to allergy triggers isn’t possible or effective and you can’t stop sneezing, over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription allergy medications can provide some relief. Your local drugstore should offer a variety of products depending on your symptoms and whether you prefer tablets, nasal spray, or eye drops.

If you have an allergic reaction that spreads throughout the body, an oral medication may be the most effective at relieving symptoms. Otherwise, choosing a nasal spray or eye drop OTC or prescription medication may be best for targeting certain symptoms.

Before beginning any new treatment or medication, you should speak with your doctor.

Alternative Treatments

For people who want to support their allergy symptoms in lieu of medications or to complement their current medication routine, alternative treatments for seasonal allergies exist.

Acupuncture is a technique used in Traditional Chinese Medicine that may reduce the symptoms of seasonal allergies in some people.

The bacteria in your gut microbiome are known to influence the health of your immune system, and regularly taking probiotics may reduce symptoms of allergic rhinitis. Other immune-supporting supplements like spirulina and butterbur can help with seasonal allergy relief.

Speak with your doctor before starting any new supplement or complementary and alternative medicine treatment.

Rinse Your Sinuses

Neti pots, as well as other nasal irrigation solutions such as bulb syringes, pulsating nasal irrigation devices, and squeeze bottles, can be effective for clearing sinuses of allergens and mucus.

For best results, use a saline rinse or saltwater instead of plain water for irrigation. To avoid any potential infection, only rinse your sinuses with distilled, sterile, or water that has boiled and stored within the last 24 hours. 

What to Avoid

Ensuring your home is a safe haven from pollen may require a little work, but it will help you keep allergens at bay:

Refrain from keeping your doors and windows open during allergy season. Instead, use an air conditioner with a HEPA filter to help you regulate your home’s temperatures. This goes for in the car as well where outdoor allergens may be getting into your air vents without the protection of a garage.

Take your shoes off at the door so you’re not tracking pollen or mold across your floors. If you have dogs or cats, make sure you wipe their paws and fur as well.

Need More Help? Visit GoHealth Urgent Care

If these at-home remedies do not work and you’re experiencing severe allergy symptoms, please visit an urgent care clinic for treatment. GoHealth Urgent Care can help diagnose, treat, and manage your seasonal and acute allergies, as well as related conditions. 

Experience the quality on-demand care that you deserve. It’s easy and convenient to schedule a visit with one of our knowledgeable providers today.

Written by Sarah Thebarge, Physician Assistant