What Is A Pollen Allergy
Pollen is one of the most common triggers of seasonal allergies. Many people know pollen allergy as hay fever. Experts usually refer to pollen allergy as seasonal allergic rhinitis.
Each spring, summer, and fall and even in the winter in some states plants release tiny pollen grains to fertilize other plants of the same species. Most of the pollen that causes allergic reactions comes from trees, grasses, and weeds. These plants make small, light, and dry pollen grains that travel by the wind. They then can find their way into your eyes, nose, and lungs, causing allergy symptoms if you have a pollen allergy.
Flowering plants that spread their pollen by insects like roses and some trees, like cherry and pear trees usually do not cause allergic rhinitis.
Do You Live in an Allergy Capital?
Your location can have an impact on your seasonal allergies. AAFAs Allergy Capitals report looks at the top 100 most challenging cities in the continental United States to live with seasonal pollen allergies.
The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America produces this report to:
- Help people recognize, prevent, and manage allergy symptoms
- Help communities identify where the needs of people with allergic diseases can be better met
- Raise awareness about the impact of seasonal allergies and provide helpful information to improve the quality of life for people who experience them
Tree Pollen Allergy
Some of the trees that cause the most allergy symptoms are:
What Causes Spring Allergies
Allergies occur when a persons immune system deems certain proteins, called allergens, as germs or foreign bodies. Developing an allergy and then experiencing an allergy attack is a two-part process. The initial step occurs when the body encounters the allergen for the first time and creates antibodies which attach to specific types of cells. This process, called sensitization, primes the body for an allergy attack the next time it experiences the allergen. When this happens, the cells release histamines chemical substances that cause unpleasant symptoms such as sneezing, coughing, and rashes on the skin.5
Different allergens cause problems for different people. The most common causes of spring allergies include tree and grass pollen, mold spores, and insects.
How Can I Tell If Im Allergic To The Plants In My Yard
If you are tested for allergies, we will tell you the specific trees and other plants you are allergic to. If you aren’t sure what types of trees and plants are in your yard, there are several free, excellent plant identification apps that you can download to your smartphone. These include PlantSnap, LeafSnap or iNaturalist.
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Symptoms Of Spring Allergies:
Spring allergy symptoms are typical of respiratory allergies, these include:
- Sinus Congestion
- Itchy or Watery Eyes
Determining what is causing your symptoms is the first step towards relief, in the case of spring allergies there are several things you can do to help ease your symptoms. The seasonal allergy season can be difficult to navigate.
When Is Allergy Season Symptoms And Treatment For Seasonal Allergies
- Allergy season is usually most severe in the spring, around the first week of May.
- That’s because seasonal allergies called allergic rhinitis or hay fever commonly occur due to pollen from trees and grass, which are most prevalent in the spring and early summer.
- However, some plants may pollinate later in the summer or fall here’s what you need to know about each allergy season, the main symptoms of seasonal allergies, and how to treat them.
- This article was medically reviewed by Omid Mehdizadeh, MD, otolaryngologist and laryngologist at the Pacific Neuroscience Institute’s Pacific Eye, Ear & Skull Base Center at Providence Saint John’s Health Center.
- This story is part of Insider’s guide to Seasonal Allergies.
Allergies can happen year-round. But there is a time of year when about 8% of Americans experience the same allergy, nation-wide.
Here’s what you need to know about allergy season, when it strikes, and how to prepare.
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How Can I Protect Myself And/or My Child From These Seasonal Allergies
During the pollen and mold season, we recommend jumping in the shower as soon as you get home every night to rinse the pollen off. Put cold, wet washcloths over your eyes and gently squeeze them to rinse the pollen out of your eyes. You may need to keep the air conditioner running through much of the season to keep the pollen out of the house. We never recommend staying indoors all summer, however! We encourage everyone to spend time outside playing as a family.
Experts Say The Spring 2022 Allergy Season Will Be A Bad One Here’s What You Need To Know
Look no further than the oak trees outside your home or office and you’ll know what time of year is coming our way.
Pollen has already started to accumulate, leading to a noticeable uptick in sniffs and sneezes. Much more is expected to follow suit in the coming weeks.
“Unfortunately, we’re expecting a bad allergy season in Houston this year especially this coming April,” says Dr. Omar Ahmed, an ENT doctor at Houston Methodist.
It’s not just Houston. Dr. Ahmed notes that allergy seasons are getting longer and worse across the country.
In Houston, the primary reason this season is predicted to be so bad is the relatively mild winter we just experienced.
“With a warmer winter comes a longer growing season for trees and grasses that produce pollen, meaning a higher concentration of pollen for us to deal with as it begins to bloom,” says Dr. Ahmed. “Pollen counts actually started rising as early as January, but more is coming in April and people should be prepared for that.”
Dr. Ahmed’s advice for handling a bad allergy season? Plan ahead.
“One of the best ways to deal with allergy season is to get ahead of it taking steps to prevent allergy symptoms and knowing how to treat them if they do arise,” says Dr. Ahmed.
Start by checking local pollen counts on your weather app and considering how the day’s pollen levels might affect your outdoor plans.
Still, allergy symptoms may strike, and Dr. Ahmed’s preferred first step might surprise you.
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What Else Can I Do To Prepare For Allergy Season
Even if you’re already taking OTC allergy meds, you may still experience symptoms. So, what then?
Luckily, there are a few other solutions. First, Dr. Ogden recommends consulting with a board-certified allergist who can discover *exactly* what’s causing problems for you. “You need to take proactive steps,” she saysand the easiest way to cut down on symptoms is to find out what’s causing them, so you can avoid them.
Once you know what the culprit is, don’t exercise outside or sleep with your windows open. Both may be tempting once the weather gets warmer, but “you have to isolate yourself from your allergens,” Dr. Ogden says, so embrace the indoors to reduce the chance of having a reaction.
And try to remove allergens once you get home: Take nighttime showers, make sure to shampoo your hair, and wash your face to make sure nothing’s stuck to your eyelashes. “You just want to remove pollen residue,” Dr. Ogden explains. For extra protection, consider investing in an air purifier for your bedroom.
The downside? Allergy shots are a bit of a time commitment. You’ll need to get them once a week for six to eight months, then once a month for a minimum of two years, says Dr. Parikh. You need to be a little bit patient too, because it can take about six months to start feeling better. So, if you want protection by March, you’ll probably have to start in September the year before.
Treatment For Pollen Allergies
A direct way to manage pollen allergies is to reduce your exposure to pollens. Pollen counts can help you to plan to avoid exposure.
Tips to reduce your exposure to pollen include:
- Stay indoors in the morning, if possible grass pollens mainly circulate in the morning.
- Avoid mowing grass or wear a mask if you do stay indoors when grass is being mowed.
- Keep windows closed in your home and car.
- Avoid picnics in parks or in the country during the pollen season.
- Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes.
- Plant a low-allergy garden around your home, especially near the windows of your home.
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What Are Treatment Options For Allergies
Limiting exposure to allergens is the best way to avoid allergy symptoms, although this requires understanding your allergy triggers. Closing your windows, removing pollen from your hair, skin, and clothes before coming into the house, etc. may help you reduce the amount of allergens you are exposed to on a daily basis.
Medications may also help in treating allergies:
- Antihistamines: Reduce symptoms by inhibiting the release of mast cell histamines, and may come in nasal or ocular spray form.
- Intranasal corticosteroid nasal sprays : Used for mild to severe symptoms higher doses may require a prescription.
- Combination therapy : Combines the benefits of both drugs and is used to treat moderate to severe allergic rhinitis.
- Adrenaline : Commonly used in auto-injector form to treat life-threatening severe allergic responses in the event of a first-aid emergency .
- Allergen immunotherapy : Long-term treatment method that alters how the immune system reacts to allergens and involves injecting or administering sublingual tablets, sprays, or drops with regular, progressively increasing doses of allergen extracts.
How To Prevent Pollen Allergies
As with other allergies, the best way to prevent symptoms of a pollen allergy is to avoid the allergen.
Pollen is difficult to avoid, though. Still, you may be able to minimize your exposure to pollen by:
- staying indoors on dry, windy days
- having others take care of gardening or yard work during peak seasons
- wearing a dust mask when pollen counts are high
- closing doors and windows when pollen counts are high
To find out the pollen counts in your area, check an app or the weather section of your local newspaper.
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When Do I Need To See An Allergy Specialist
Working with an allergist can help to determine what you are allergic to and ways you can treat and manage your symptoms. More aggressive treatment, such as immunotherapy or allergy shots, is available for those who have tried over-the-counter medicines and prescriptions with no relief.
Immunotherapy is a form of treatment that alters the immune system’s response to an allergen. It is done to induce tolerance to the allergen by administering the allergen at a certain dosage over a period of time.
A patient should be referred to an allergist by their primary care provider if they need further allergy testing to identify allergic triggers, has prolonged or severe symptoms despite treatment, or if they are interested in immunotherapy, says Dr. Nguyen.
If you have questions or concerns about your seasonal allergy symptoms, contact your primary care provider.
Take Extra Precautions When Pollen Counts Are High
During the spring, summer, and fall, its easy to find pollen counts for a given region. These reports tell you whether the amount of pollen in the air is low, medium, or high. On days when the count is higher, keep your windows closed, consider wearing a mask outside, or pre-empt your symptoms by taking medication.
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Treating Seasonal Allergies In Dogs
You have several options for treating your dogs allergies. A dog dermatologist may prescribe a series of allergen injections, similar to allergy shots humans can get. These shots introduce the allergen in small amounts and increase in dose over time to improve your dogs immune response, possibly eliminating a reaction to the allergen.
If your pet has mild seasonal allergies, over-the-counter antihistamines may prove effective, whereas oral and topical prescription medications may help reduce symptoms. Ask your veterinarian for antihistamine recommendations.
Try treating your pets seasonal allergies through nutrition for a more holistic approach. Therapeutic dog foods and supplements offer vitamins and minerals that provide nutrients your pets diet might lack. To help minimize your dogs allergies, the best thing you can do is limit their exposure to allergens. Wipe down your pets paws, legs, and belly with a baby wipe when they come in from outdoors. A weekly bath with oatmeal or medicated shampoo can be helpful. Be sure the water is lukewarm because hot water can dry and irritate the skin.
How Can You Minimize Exposure To Seasonal Allergy Triggers
Even when pollen seems to be blanketing everything in its path, there are steps you can take to prevent allergies from acting up:
- Have your child wash their hands and face as soon as they come in from playing outside so they dont rub pollen in their eyes and nose. Better yet, rinse them off in the shower.
- Check the forecast for pollen levels, and limit outdoor activities when pollen counts are at their highest.
- Dry laundry in the dryer. Since pollen can coat clothing, avoid hanging laundry outside to dry.
- Have your child take their bath at bedtime. This will help with nighttime allergy problems.
- Keep windows in your home and car closed and use air conditioning to filter the air. Make sure the air conditioner is on re-circulating mode.
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What About Herbal Remedies
Alfred Vogel, the well-known Swiss naturopath, was a great believer in treating the problem from the root. In this case, treating seasonal allergies can help the symptoms such as skin rash.
He devised a remedy for allergies consisting of seven different herbs to treat the symptoms of seasonal allergies, now found in Pollinosan Allergy Relief Tablets. It is a non-drowsy remedy which can be used alongside other seasonal allergies remedies.
If you are looking for a remedy specifically to soothe an allergy induced rash, then a cream containing Neem leaf extract may be effective. This can be found in herbal creams such as Neem Cream.
Should I Take Or Give My Child Over
The over-the-counter allergy medications are both safe and effective. Steroid nose sprays, such as Flonase, Rhinocort and Nasacort, may help your nose and eye symptoms even if you dont have allergies. The 24-hour antihistamines, such as Claritin, Clarinex, Allegra, Zyrtec and Xyzal, will help but typically only if you have allergies. It is safe and effective to use a steroid nose spray and 24-hour antihistamine together. So, yes, even if youre not sure, it is safe to give these medications a try to see if they will help.
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How Are Seasonal Allergies Diagnosed
Talk with your doctor if you think your child might have seasonal allergies. The doctor will ask if the same symptoms happen at the same time each year after your child is around an allergen, and do an exam. The doctor may be able to make a diagnosis, or might refer you to an allergy doctor for allergy skin testing or a blood test.
To find which allergens cause a person’s symptoms, allergists usually do skin testing. During skin prick testing, an allergist or nurse puts a tiny bit of a liquid containing an allergen into the skin by making a small scratch or prick on the skin. They usually do skin testing on a person’s forearm or back. The allergist then waits 15 minutes or so to see if a red, raised bump, called a wheal, forms. If it does, there might be an allergy. The allergist uses a ruler to measure the wheal and the redness around it.
Even if a skin test or a blood test shows an allergy, a child must also have symptoms to be diagnosed with an allergy for sure. For example, a child who has a positive test for grass pollen and sneezes a lot while playing in the grass would be considered allergic to grass pollen.
When Is Allergy Season Over
Since there is no one answer to the question, when is allergy season?, its also hard to say when allergy season is over particularly when many people with allergies will experience them at different times from one another.
Many people experience year-round allergy symptoms, regardless of when certain allergy seasons start and end.ii, v Allergy symptoms can also be caused by common indoor allergens such as dust mites, pet dander, insects and mold which can be hard to avoid day-to-day.ii If you are only allergic to one type of pollen or mold, however, allergy season may be over for you when that allergen is no longer prevalent.
People who are allergic to indoor allergens have what is known as perennial allergic rhinitis, rather than seasonal allergic rhinitis. However, its possible to have both, and people with the perennial strain can experience more severe allergy symptoms during pollen seasons if they suffer from perennial and seasonal rhinitis.ii
To find out whats causing your allergy symptoms, consult your doctor or an allergist. They can advise you on how best to manage and treat your symptoms during the allergy season that applies to you.
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Topical Treatments For Itchy Swollen Watery Eyes
For itchy, swollen eyes, oral medication does not tend to work as effectively as topical eye drops. Allergy eye drops generally contain topical antihistamines. Avoid the use of any product that contains a vasoconstrictor for more than two to three days to avoid rebound redness. Rebound redness is the recurrence of symptoms and can lead to eyes becoming dependent upon eye drops. Artificial tears will also help soothe irritated eyes.
Ask your pediatrician or nurse practitioner if you are interested in exploring other medication options or in long-term treatments such as immune therapy .