Allergies Seasonal Allergy Cycles

Allergies occur when the body comes in contact with a harmless substance and mistakes it for a dangerous foreign invader. A chemical reaction takes place in the body producing histamine, which in turn brings on the symptoms of allergies. Allergy symptoms vary from person to person. Some common symptoms of allergies include:

  • allergic conjunctivitis
  • bloodshot or watery eyes
  • bluish discoloration around the eyes
  • coughing
  • dizziness
  • itchy nose, skin and throat
  • runny or stuffy nose
  • sneezing.

Understanding and Diagnosing Your Seasonal Allergy

Seasonal allergies are the result of being exposed to airborne allergens that are only present during certain times of the year. Pollens and grasses are among the most common seasonal allergy triggers.

Pollens are important for reproduction in flowering plants. Many plants release these tiny, powdery pollen grains into the air to cross-pollinate with other plants of the same type. When pollens are in the air, they can be inhaled or land on a person’s eyes, nose and skin, triggering an allergic reaction. Plants that use insects to carry pollen to other plants, rather than releasing pollen into the wind, usually are not a cause of seasonal allergies.

Seasonal Allergy Cycles

Seasonal allergies follow the cycles of pollination in certain flowering plants. Here are a few common seasonal allergy triggers and when they are most active:

  • Fall: weed pollens such as ragweed
  • Spring: tree pollens including alder, birch, elm, oak and maple
  • Summer: grasses such as orchard, sweet vernal and Timothy, and weeds including English plantain and Russian thistle.

Mold spores, which may be airborne during fall, spring and summer, are another common cause of seasonal allergies.

Seasonal allergy cycles are influenced by geographic location. In arid climates, such as the southwestern United States, grasses have a longer pollination season than in other areas. The climate of some Western states allows mountain cedar to pollinate from December to March. Windy areas keep pollen in the air for longer periods of time.

Time of day is another important factor in seasonal allergy triggers. Many plants release pollens at the start of the day. Pollen levels in the air are usually at their highest during these morning hours, between 5:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.

Avoiding Pollen Exposure

If you have seasonal pollen allergies, avoiding pollen exposure will help minimize your symptoms. Here are some tips for staying away from pollen:

  • Avoid freshly cut grass and mowing the lawn.
  • Check the news for pollen counts and try to stay indoors on days when the count is especially high.
  • Close windows in your home and car to keep pollen outside.
  • Consider staying indoors during the early morning hours, when pollen is often emitted from plants.
  • Run your air conditioner to filter pollen from the air in your home.
  • Spend time at the seashore if you are able, where there is less pollen in the air.
  • Use your machine dryer for laundry. Pollen can land and collect on laundry hung outdoors to dry.

Treating Seasonal Allergies

When your seasonal allergies flare up, avoiding triggers may not always be enough. Your doctor can provide useful allergy information, and help you decide on the best treatment for you. Many over-the-counter remedies are available, or your doctor may prescribe something stronger. Common treatments for seasonal allergies include:

  • antihistamines
  • decongestants
  • corticosteroid nasal sprays
  • cromolyn
  • eye drops
  • immunotherapy (allergy shots)
  • leukotriene modifiers.

Sinus irrigation with a warm saline solution is a natural way to relieve seasonal allergy symptoms. Pollen and other allergens are rinsed away, with no unpleasant side effects.

Resources

Merck