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Seasonal Allergies 101

Thursday, Apr 02, 2015
seasonal-allergies-101

Spring is in the air (finally), and so is the pollen that causes seasonal allergies. Learn how to manage your allergy symptoms and when it might be time to see the doctor.

Spring is officially here! That means the start of allergies for many of us. Allergic rhinitis, also called hay fever, affects about 50 million Americans, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Seasonal allergic rhinitis causes symptoms in spring, summer and/or early fall.

The cause is sensitivity to pollens from trees, grasses or weeds or to airborne mold spores. Hay fever doesn't have to do with hay, and usually isn't accompanied by a fever. Interestingly enough, farmers coined the phrase "hay fever" at the turn of the century because the saw symptoms during harvest season each year.

Seasonal Allergy Symptoms

  • Runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Itchy eyes, mouth or skin
  • Stuffy nose
  • Fatigue
  • Puffy, red and watery eyes
  • Post-nasal drip

Common tree pollen that causes early springtime allergies include: elm, maple, birch, poplar, beech, ash, oak, walnut, sycamore, cypress, hickory, pecan, cottonwood, and alder.

Tips to Relieve Seasonal Allergies

  • Start treatment early: If you take medications to control seasonal allergy symptoms, start taking them now. Don't wait for spring to be in fool bloom.
  • Take steps to control your environment
    • Stay indoors if possible when pollen counts are at their peak (mid-day and afternoon hours), and when it is windy
    • Keep windows closed during high-pollen periods, use air conditioner in car and at home
    • Avoid using window fans, which can draw pollen inside
    • Wear sunglasses to reduce the amount of pollen coming into your eyes
    • Shower in the evening, including washing your hair to wash away pollen
  • Consider taking an over-the-counter allergy medication, and switching brands if one medication is not effective
  • Wear a mask when gardening or mowing the lawn
  • Do not hang clothes to dry outside, pollen may stick to clothing, towels and sheets

Know the Pollen Count

The National Allergy Bureau (NAB) will give you pollen counts and mold levels, specific to your area.

Weather websites, including, The Weather Channel, also offer allergy-tracking tools.

When to See a Doctor

If over-the-counter medications do not control symptoms or if you are experiencing severe symptoms, call your doctor. You can start with your primary care physician, who then might refer you to an allergy specialist necessary.

It's also a good idea to see the doctor if you have another condition that can make symptoms worse, like asthma or frequent sinus infections.

The doctor might suggest testing to determine the cause of the allergy. Treatment might include allergy shots or allergy drops under the tongue or allergy tablets.

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