Five things to know about seasonal allergies

May 1, 2014 by B. Brent Simmons, Md

Seasonal allergies are one of the most common medical problems in America, with around 20 percent of people affected. That means that if you do not personally have allergies, chances are a close relative or friend of yours does have them. Allergens in the air trigger an immune response leading to inflammation along the mucous membranes that line your nose, eyes, throat and ears.

Is it allergies or a cold?

Telling the difference between and a cold can be difficult. Longtime sufferers of allergies can usually tell the difference, but if it's not clear, there are a few clues to help figure it out. First, since the inflammation caused by allergies is confined to the mucous lining of your eyes, ears, nose and throat, body-wide symptoms such as fever and body aches should never accompany allergies. Presence of these symptoms would be suggestive of a viral illness. Second, viruses can cause soreness of various body parts, but don't usually cause an itch. Itchy eyes or throat are suggestive of allergies. Finally, colds usually run their course in about 14 days. Runny nose or watery eyes lasting longer than that are more likely due to allergies.

How are seasonal allergies treated?

Antihistamines (both oral and eyedrop formulations), decongestants and nasal steroid sprays can all be effective in relieving severe . But not all medications are right for all people, so you should work with your doctor to figure out the most effective and safest medication for you.

What are the potential side effects of medications for seasonal allergies?

In people under 65, oral antihistamines are generally well tolerated but are notorious for causing drowsiness. However, those over 65 need to be very careful with antihistamines, as they can also cause constipation, , urinary retention and even confusion. If you are over 65, you should check with your doctor before using them, even if they are over-the-counter. Nasal steroids, when used correctly, are less likely to cause side effects because the medication acts topically in your sinuses and doesn't absorb as much into your bloodstream.

How do I avoid triggers of allergic symptoms?

Awareness is the key to avoiding symptoms. Be mindful of the things you know will cause symptoms (e.g., pets, pollen, grass, dust, mold). Reduce your exposure by keeping windows closed, using your air conditioner/HEPA air filter, drying your clothes indoors instead of outside on a clothesline and minimizing dust and dander buildup with frequent housecleaning.

What are the worst times of the year for different allergies?

  • Winter: As the heater kicks on and dries out the air, dust allergies are in their prime.
  • Early spring: Pollen starts flying, and so do pollen- and flower-related allergies.
  • Late spring: As the grass starts to grow long, those with grass allergies have their toughest time of year.
  • Summer: Heat combined with some summer showers is the perfect recipe for mold growth. Mold-related allergies are common this time of year.
  • Fall: Ragweed blooms in the early fall and can linger for months. With a single ragweed plant capable of delivering a billion pollen grains into the fall breeze, this is one of the most common allergies and one of the most difficult to avoid.

Explore further: So long snow, hello pollen

Related Stories

So long snow, hello pollen

April 6, 2014
(HealthDay)—Although it still feels like winter in many parts of the United States, it's time to prepare for spring allergies, an expert says.

Spring is here, but so are allergies

March 21, 2014
Spring has finally arrived in Cincinnati, but soon to follow will be the coughing, sneezing and wheezing that comes with allergies, hay fever and asthma—three warm weather killjoys most could do without.

Video: Air moisture making allergies worse indoors and outdoors

April 10, 2014
As the snowy winter of 2014 winds down, Loyola allergy specialist Dr. Joseph Leija tells WJOL radio that the Midwest will likely see high counts for mold and pollen this year. Allergy symptoms seem like they're at their the ...

Should you be worried about the 'pollen vortex'?

April 28, 2014
(Medical Xpress)—After an unseasonably cold and snowy winter, Canadians can soon look forward to sunshine and warmer weather.

FDA OKs Merck tablet to reduce ragweed allergies

April 17, 2014
U.S. regulators have again approved a Merck & Co. tablet for gradually reducing seasonal allergies, this time for ragweed pollen.

Managing seasonal allergies

June 17, 2013
(HealthDay)—Although spring arrived late this year in parts of the United States, the summer allergy season will still be strong, according to a sinus expert at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Recommended for you

Genetic immune deficiency could hold key to severe childhood infections

July 18, 2017
A gene mutation making young children extremely vulnerable to common viruses may represent a new type of immunodeficiency, according to a University of Queensland researcher.

What are the best ways to diagnose and manage asthma?

July 18, 2017
What are the best ways to diagnose and manage asthma in adults? This can be tricky because asthma can stem from several causes and treatment often depends on what is triggering the asthma.

Large multi-ethnic study identifies many new genetic markers for lupus

July 17, 2017
Scientists from an international consortium have identified a large number of new genetic markers that predispose individuals to lupus.

Study finds molecular explanation for struggles of obese asthmatics

July 17, 2017
A large, bouquet-shaped molecule called surfactant protein A, or SP-A, may explain why obese asthma patients have harder-to-treat symptoms than their lean and overweight counterparts, according to a new study led by scientists ...

Team identifies potential cause for lupus

July 14, 2017
Leading rheumatologist and Feinstein Institute for Medical Research Professor Betty Diamond, MD, may have identified a protein as a cause for the adverse reaction of the immune system in patients suffering from lupus. A better ...

Immunosuppression underlies resistance to anti-angiogenic therapy

July 14, 2017
A Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) research team has identified a novel mechanism behind resistance to angiogenesis inhibitors - drugs that fight cancer by suppressing the formation of new blood vessels. In their report ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.