A runny nose. Itchy eyes. Lots of sneezing. For most of us, these symptoms of seasonal allergies are all too familiar. Before spring allergies take over this year, get the facts about some ways you can find relief.
Seasonal allergies also called “allergic rhinitis” or “hay fever,” are incredibly common. In fact, nearly 8 percent of Americans age 18 and older experience these allergies at some point during the year.
Those of us who live in Tennessee are especially familiar with spring allergies. Each year when the list of cities and regions plagued with seasonal allergies is published, several Tennessee locations make the list.
But does that mean you’re inevitably going to experience these pesky allergy symptoms? Not necessarily!
There are some steps you can take to lower your risk of experiencing spring allergies. Read on as Teresa Stewart, nurse practitioner with West Tennessee Medical Group, shares some tips.
What Causes Seasonal Allergies?
Well, the answer to that question depends on what season we’re in! That’s because seasonal allergies are allergic reactions to an allergen that’s in the environment. In other words, what’s out and blooming during a certain time of year.
Spring allergies typically begin in February and last until early summer in most cases. These common allergies come alive as the trees and grass do. So, when it’s time to mow your yard for the first time in the spring, it’s likely allergies are in full bloom, too.
When you experience allergy symptoms early in the spring, you’re likely reacting to tree pollen, while grass pollen is a more common allergen later in spring and in the summer.
When fall rolls around, ragweed is the most common allergen, typically causing allergy symptoms from August through November.
What Symptoms Do Seasonal Allergies Cause?
If you’re allergic to pollen, your immune system will react when it’s confronted with that allergen. Unfortunately, that can lead to all kinds of unpleasant (but familiar) symptoms, including:
- Itchy eyes, nose or roof of the mouth
- Nasal congestion
- Runny nose
- Watery eyes
If you have allergic asthma, you might also experience an asthma flare-up when you encounter seasonal allergens.
Some of these symptoms overlap with those of COVID-19, which we’re all too familiar with at this point. How can you tell the difference between seasonal allergies and this more serious condition? If you experience a fever, it’s worth checking in with your medical provider. A fever is much more common with a virus and typically does not occur with allergies.
How Can I Fend Off Seasonal Allergies?
If you’ve been outdoors at all recently, you’ve seen trees and bushes budding out, and green grass popping up. For those of us with spring allergies, we’ve entered the danger zone!
But you don’t have to simply reconcile yourself to experiencing unpleasant allergy symptoms. Instead, take these steps:
- Know your allergens. If you’re a frequent allergy sufferer, you may already have worked with an allergy specialist to nail down what you’re allergic to. But even if you haven’t had an allergy test done, in many cases you probably know whether your allergy symptoms start popping up when grass grows or when trees bud out. (Or all of the above!)
- Keep an eye on pollen counts. If you know generally what you react to, it’s a good idea to take a look at the weather forecast to see the pollen count each day. If the pollen count is particularly high, you may want to stay indoors more and keep windows and doors shut. Use your AC unit rather than relying on air from outside.
- Consider preventive use of an antihistamine. Talk with your medical provider about whether you’d benefit from taking an OTC or prescription antihistamine or nasal spray daily during the heart of spring allergy season. This could help stop allergy symptoms before they start.
- Shut the door on allergens. Most seasonal allergies relate to pollen, which is outdoors. Keep your doors and windows closed as much as possible. When going indoors after spending time outside, consider taking a shower to wash off allergens, or at least remove your shoes and change clothes. Wipe your pets off when they come inside to get rid of that pollen, too.
- Change your air filter. When’s the last time you changed out your home’s air filter? If you aren’t sure, it’s time to change it! This will help clear any stray pollen and other allergens out of your home. You may also want to consider choosing a CERTIFIED asthma & allergy friendly® HVAC filter for extra protection.
Wondering whether your symptoms are caused by seasonal allergies or something more serious? Your primary care provider can help you make the call. Find a Provider