Allergies Seasonal

Seasonal allergies are a collection of unpleasant symptoms caused by exposure to airborne plant and mold particles during specific times of the year. According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, seasonal allergies affect approximately one in six people (2010).

Seasonal allergies are commonly referred to as “hay fever,” a term that refers to the summer season, when most hay is gathered. This name is a little misleading, however, because seasonal allergies are often caused by pollen and mold, and the allergy symptoms don’t include fever.

Causes of Seasonal Allergies

The two primary causes of seasonal allergies are:

  • Mold: Reproductive spores from molds also cause allergies, and can be present in the air during spring, summer and fall.
  • Pollen: These plant reproductive particles cause most seasonal allergies. Tree pollen contributes mostly to springtime allergies, grass pollen to summer allergies and ragweed pollen to fall allergies.

Seasonal Allergy Symptoms

Unlike cold symptoms, which appear in slow succession and usually last about 10 days, seasonal allergy symptoms appear all at once and last until the exposure to pollen or mold ceases. These allergy symptoms include:

  • Allergic rhinitis (irritation and itching in the inner lining of the nose, coupled with a clear, runny discharge)
  • Allergic conjunctivitis (itching and irritation of the eyes, coupled with a discharge)
  • Itchy throat
  • Sneezing.

Diagnosing Allergies

Doctors diagnose seasonal allergies based on the symptoms and their pattern of occurrence. They can also analyze nasal discharge material; high levels of eosinophils — a special type of cell produced during allergic reactions — in the discharge confirms a diagnosis of seasonal allergies.

Treating Seasonal Allergies

Both medical and alternative treatments are available to allergy sufferers. These include:

  • Medications: Antihistamines, decongestants and corticosteroid nasal sprays are usually the first line of treatments for seasonal allergies.
  • Allergen immunotherapy: When symptoms are severe and don’t respond to medications, immunotherapy essentially aims to desensitize the immune system to the pollens and molds that cause seasonal allergies.
  • Acupuncture: This is a controversial alternative treatment for many conditions, including allergies. Some medical professionals say it’s effective, while others refute its efficacy. Talk to your primary care physician before beginning an acupuncture regimen for allergy symptoms.

Tips for Avoiding Allergies

If you suffer from seasonal allergies, these tips may help you avoid the airborne agents that cause allergy symptoms:

  • Avoid doing lawn and garden work, or wear a dust mask if you must do it.
  • Don’t dry your clothes outside.
  • Keep doors and windows closed when pollen counts are high.
  • Remove clothes that you’ve worn outside and rinse your hair after coming inside.
  • Stay inside on dry, windy days.
  • Watch the weather report to learn the daily pollen counts; stay inside on high-pollen days.

Resources

American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. (2010). NAB: Frequently asked questions. Retrieved October 1, 2010, from http://www.aaaai.org/nab/index.cfm?p=faq.

Mayo Clinic. (2010). Springtime allergies: Nip them in the bud. Retrieved October 1, 2010 from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/springtime-allergies/AA00060.

Medicine Net. (2010). A cold or seasonal allergies? Retrieved October 1, 2010 from http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=55042.

Merck. (2010). Seasonal allergies. Retrieved October 1, 2010 from http://www.merck.com/mmhe/sec16/ch185/ch185b.html.

Lancaster County Health Department. Pollen and outdoor allergies. Retrieved October 1, 2010 from http://www.lincoln.ne.gov/city/health/environ/pollu/pollen.htm.