Seasonal Allergies

By Elaine Hegwood Bowen, M.S.J., ACCESS Media Relations Specialist
May 5, 2016

Warm spring weather can come with a downside if you suffer from seasonal allergies.

What Are Seasonal Allergies?​

Seasonal allergies, also called hay fever and allergic rhinitis, are a reaction of the body's immune system to irritating particles in the air. Millions of people are affected by seasonal allergies.​

The runny nose, itchy eyes and other common symptoms of an allergic reaction are all part of the body's effort to fight off foreign particles. Unfortunately, this natural reaction causes symptoms that people find uncomfortable. 

According to ACCESS Chief Medical Officer Jairo Mejia, M.D., it is unknown why some people are more susceptible to seasonal allergies than others. Sometimes an entire family could be affected and other times, only certain family members.

Seasonal allergies that pop up in the spring, summer and fall are usually caused by pollen from trees, grasses and weeds, or by spores from outdoor molds that grow under leaves and plants.​

Symptoms of Seasonal Allergies

The most common symptoms are sneezing, itchy eyes and runny or stuffed-up noses. ​

Seasonal allergies do not cause muscle and joint pain or fever. They rarely cause a sore, swollen throat or serious coughing. If you have those symptoms, you may have something other than seasonal allergies and should see your doctor.

Seasonal allergies could last the whole time the pollen or mold is in the air. Ragweed, for example (one of the most common allergens in the United States), puts off pollen for up to six weeks. Some molds can grow in spring, summer and fall when temperatures are above freezing.​

Managing Seasonal Allergies

Most seasonal allergies are not serious or life threatening, and do not need treatment by a doctor. Unfortunately, there is no cure for these allergies. But you can treat the symptoms.

A person can develop allergies at any age, and a person can develop allergies and not exhibit or feel any symptoms of that allergy. On the other hand, according to Dr. Mejia, a person can stop having symptoms surrounding the allergy but still physically maintain that particular allergy.

Over-the-counter antihistamines are the most common form of allergy relief. They work for most patients who suffer itchy eyes and runny noses. Nasal sprays and decongestants may also provide relief for common allergy symptoms. 

You also can try to avoid the things that cause allergies. Some tips to keep in mind:​

  • Pollen levels are usually highest in the very early morning hours.
  • Rain washes pollen away, but pollen levels then rise after rain stops.
  • Windy days will stir up pollen and spread more of it in the air.
  • Mold grows and spreads on hot, humid days.
  • Mowing or raking grass and leaves will spread pollen in the air.

Some weather services report pollen counts and pollen alerts. On high pollen days, you can take antihistamines before leaving the house. In severe cases, wearing a pollen mask outside and then changing into clean clothing once inside can help, too. 

Severe Seasonal Allergies

Most people with seasonal allergies never suffer any symptoms worse than mildly itchy eyes or a runny nose. Few, though, will experience symptoms so severe that they have trouble working or traveling.​

In some cases, a doctor can do a blood test to try and identify what is causing the reaction. This test checks to see whether an allergy is related to food, dust, weed, pets or grass, among other things. 

There are more things your doctor can do if the problem is severe. If you have severe allergies, talk to your doctor, and he may recommend that you see a specialist. To learn more about how you can control and prevent seasonal allergy symptoms, locate your nearest ACCESS health centerand schedule an appointment with a provider.