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. The new beginnings of the season are often accompanied with red eyes and a stuffy nose. Kleenex, anyone?
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.
While there is no cure for seasonal allergies, there are ways to avoid triggers that cause you to flare-up and treatment 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!
What’s Causing My Seasonal Allergies?
Like any allergy, hay fever develops when your body’s immune system becomes sensitized to certain particles in the environment that it considers dangerous. The seasonal allergies you have depend on the time of year when common outdoor allergens, according to American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology, like molds and fungi release their spores or when grasses, trees or weeds release pollen into the air.
During springtime, tree pollen is the most frequent culprit of allergies. Springtime is also coincidentally “pollen season” when pollination is at its peak. Then, summer tends to bring grass pollen allergies and fall ragweed allergies. To fight against any perceived invader, or allergen, your body releases chemicals, including histamine, into the bloodstream. And for allergy sufferers this results in allergy symptoms – your irritating cough, runny nose or itchy throat.
The best route to take is to first test for allergies to see what it is that is causing the allergic reaction.
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.
Tip #1: Make Sure It’s Really Allergies
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 or sinus infection. The symptoms for all three of these illnesses are similar, but there are some telltale differences that can help you pinpoint a correct diagnosis.
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.
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; on the other hand, allergies can last anywhere from a couple days to a few months depending on how long you’re exposed to an allergen.
Tip #2: Avoid Extended Time Outdoors When Pollen Counts Are High
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 provide 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. Those marked N95 are 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.
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.
- 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.
- 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, trying 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 allergic reactions.
If reducing your exposure to allergy triggers isn’t possible or effective, 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 – but before beginning any treatment, you should speak with your doctor./p>