Seasonal Allergies: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment

Overview

A seasonal allergy is an allergic reaction that develops when the body’s immune system overreacts to something in the environment. It occurs only during part of the year, such as spring or fall. This type of allergy usually refers to a pollen allergy, such as trees, weeds, and grasses. People with a seasonal allergy will often sneeze and cough.

According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, about 8 percent of Americans experience seasonal allergies.

Causes

Seasonal allergies happen when the immune system identifies a harmless airborne substance as dangerous. It responds to that substance, or allergen, by releasing histamines and other chemicals into your bloodstream. Those chemicals cause the symptoms of an allergic reaction.

It is believed that there are two main culprits for seasonal allergies:

  • Ragweed. Ragweed is a plant that grows wide in fields, along roadsides, and in vacant lots. Ragweed can release a billion pollen grains in a season, and the grains can travel up to about 400 miles.
  • Molds. Outdoor molds grow in heavy vegetation, hay and straw, and in raked leaves. Outdoor molds will increase after rain.

Common causes of seasonal allergies vary from season to season. It is said that they are less common during the winter. Other plants that trigger seasonal allergies include:

  • Burning bush
  • Birch
  • Ryegrass
  • Cocklebur
  • Lamb’s-quarters
  • Mugworts
  • Sorrels
  • Russian thistle

Symptoms

The common symptoms of seasonal allergies include:

  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Itchy nose
  • Nasal congestion
  • Postnasal drainage
  • Watery and itchy eyes

Less common symptoms include:

  • Headache
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Wheezing
  • Asthma

Diagnosis

Seasonal allergy is usually easier to diagnose than other allergies. The doctor will check your ears, nose and throat, and ask about your symptoms. If you have allergic symptoms that only occur at certain time of the year, it means you have a seasonal allergy. Sometimes, allergy skin tests and allergy blood tests may help make a diagnosis. However, in most cases, these tests are not necessary. The treatment for allergies will be nearly the same.

Treatment

The best way to relieve and treat seasonal allergies is avoidance of allergens that trigger the symptoms. For instance, stay indoors when pollen counts are high, wear a dust mask when you’re outside, especially on windy days, avoid cigarette smoke.

Besides, the doctor may recommend medications to help alleviate the allergic symptoms, which include over-the-counter decongestants and antihistamines, such as cetirizine and combination medications containing acetaminophen, diphenhydramine, and phenylephrine, and prescription medications, such as steroid nasal sprays.

In some severe cases, the doctor may recommend allergy shots. It is a type of immunotherapy. These injections expose you over time to gradual increments of the allergen, which can help desensitize your immune system to allergens. It is one of the most effective way to treat seasonal allergies.


Keywords: Seasonal allergy.

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* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.