Spring season is a major contributor to flare-ups of those pesky environmental allergies. As trees and plants come out of their dormant phase, they also can make people feel quite miserable. And for the very unlucky ones, spring season is not the only allergy-triggered season. It’s also very common for allergies to trigger in the summer and fall. The good news—there’s a lot of things that can help relieve the misery.
Understanding Seasonal Allergies
The type of environmental allergies depends on the climate you live in. In drier climates, more pollen is produced, often spreading by wind. In humid climates where there is more rain, pollen is more easily knocked down. Seasonal allergies also stick around longer in warmer climates. The warmer the climate, the longer the allergy season.
Tree pollen is the biggest allergy trigger in the spring. Some trees can pollinate in late February or in early March. Depending on the tree you are allergic to, symptoms can run from February to May.
Summer allergies can look similar to fall allergies but are caused by different pollens—mostly grass and weed pollen.
Weed pollen allergies are most common in fall and can be noticeable starting in August and extending into November.
- These medications help block histamines (chemicals triggered by your allergy) that cause common allergy symptoms. Common medications such as Zyrtec (cetirizine), Allegra (fexofenadine), Claritin (loratadine), and Xyzal (levocetirizine) are safe to use on a daily basis. Loratadine and cetirizine are considered the antihistamines of choice for women who are pregnant.
- Nasal sprays
- Intranasal steroid sprays are safe to use on a daily basis to help reduce inflammation in the nose. Some nasal sprays, such as Flonase (fluticasone) and Nasacort (triamcinolone), are available over the counter. Others are also available by prescription.
- These medications can come in the form of pills and nasal sprays to help relieve congestion by shrinking swollen blood vessels and tissues. Common decongestants include Afrin, Sudafed, and Vicks Sinex. Decongestant nasal sprays are not recommended for daily use because of side effects.
- Eye allergies can cause red, itchy, watery, and swollen eyes. Over the counter eyedrops, such as Zaditor (ketotifen) and Pataday (olopatadine), can help relieve symptoms. Talk to your doctor about whether you should use an antihistamine, an anti-inflammatory, or a decongestant allergy eyedrop.
- Limit outdoor activity
- Change your clothes after spending time outside
- Take a hot shower or bath to clear out your sinuses and to clean off any pollen on your skin, face, and hair.
- Keep windows closed.
- Keep animals, who can bring pollen into the home, off bedding and furniture.
- Use a Neti pot or a sinus rinse bottle to help flush your sinuses.
Finding out what a patient is allergic to is key to getting symptoms under control. Allergy testing through skin testing is the best method to identify allergy triggers for desensitization. Allergy shots are 90 percent effective at treating environmental allergies and limiting medication over time.
Here is what the process looks like:
- Patients will be asked questions about their allergy symptoms to better understand their allergy triggers and when they occur.
- Patients will undergo allergy testing (skin or blood test) to confirm what is causing their symptoms.
- Patients will go through the “build-up phase” and receive weekly injections for three to six months.
- Allergy injections will eventually progress to typically once every four weeks in the “maintenance phase” once patients reach a dose that improves their allergic symptoms.
The process of desensitizing a patient through allergy shots takes about 6 to 12 months to start feeling better. The length of allergy shots is three to five years so that the allergy improvement persists even after stopping shots.
Don’t know where to start?
It’s best to talk to an allergist about your allergy symptoms and how to treat them. Allergists can identify allergy triggers and help find the best treatment options.