Depending on where you spent the winter, you may be welcoming the warmth of spring, along with blooming buds and trees. But if you're one of the millions of people who experience seasonal allergies, you may feel less welcoming towards the allergy symptoms that spring can bring along with it too - sneezing, congestion, and runny noses. Before you make plans to completely avoid the birds and the bees, read through a few of our tips for minimizing your allergy symptoms this season.
When is allergy season?
In most areas of the United States, spring allergies begin in February, and last until the early summer. Tree pollination begins earliest in the year followed by grass pollination later in the spring and summer, and ragweed in the late summer and fall. In tropical climates, however, grass may pollinate throughout a good portion of the year. Mild winter temperatures can cause plants to pollinate early. A rainy spring can also promote rapid plant growth and lead to an increase in mold, causing symptoms to last well into the fall.
What causes seasonal allergies?
Allergy symptoms occur when your immune system is triggered into action by an airborne substance that’s usually harmless. Your body responds to that substance, or allergen, by releasing histamines and other chemicals into your bloodstream. Those chemicals produce the symptoms of an allergic reaction. In the spring, most seasonal allergies result from tree pollination. Birch is one of the most common offenders in northern latitudes, where many people with hay fever react to its pollen. Other allergenic trees in North America include cedar, alder, horse chestnut, willow, and poplar.
How can I reduce my exposure to allergy triggers?
There are a number of ways you can do to reduce your exposure to things that trigger your allergy symptoms:
- Try to stay indoors on dry or windy days. Instead, aim to go outside after a good rain, which helps clear pollen from the air
- Avoid lawn mowing, weed pulling, and other gardening chores that stir up allergens
- After going outside, remove dirty clothes and shower to rinse pollen from your skin and hair
- Don't hang laundry outside, because pollen can stick to sheets and towels
- Wear a pollen mask while doing outside chores
What can I do when pollen counts are high?
Seasonal allergy signs and symptoms can flare up when there's a lot of pollen in the air, so you may want to take a few extra steps to reduce your exposure to what’s in the air:
- Check your local TV or radio station, your local newspaper, or the internet for pollen forecasts and current pollen levels
- If the pollen count is high, start taking allergy medications before your symptoms start
- Close doors and windows at night or any other time when pollen counts are high
- Avoid outdoor activity in the early morning when pollen counts are highest
What types of over-the-counter remedies are available?
There are several types of nonprescription medications that can help reduce allergy symptoms, including:
- First Generation OTC allergy medications include oral antihistamines. They are also the oldest group of OTC medications. They are sedating, which means they’re likely to make you drowsy after you use them. They also don’t last as long in your system as other medications, so they require more frequent doses than the newer generations. A commonly used first-generation brand is Benadryl, which helps relieve runny nose, sneezing, itchy or watery eyes, and nose or throat itching, andl can also be used to treat hives and to reduce redness and itching.
- Second generation OTC allergy medications were developed more recently than their first generations counterparts. Because they work by targeting more specific receptors, there are fewer side effects associated with second generation medications. They also work longer in your body, so you’ll need fewer doses to get relief. Claratin, Zyrtec, and Allerga are all second generation allergy medications.
- Topical antihistamine nasal sprays like Flonase are topical allergy treatments that help relieve sneezing, itchy or runny nose, sinus congestion, and postnasal drip. These medications can cause side effects such as a bitter taste, drowsiness or feeling tired.
If after trying these tips, you find you are still suffering from the symptoms of seasonal allergies, contact your provider. He or she may be able to suggest a number of other treatments available.