Spring Allergies: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

For most people, the approach of spring means warmer weather and the return of green grass and flowers; but other people dread the return of this cheery season because of one simple thing: spring allergies. It is estimated that about 55% of the United States population suffers from allergies, and most of these people aren’t even aware that they have an allergy! In fact, when compared to other common chronic conditions, allergies takes the number five rank in North America. We are going to discuss what exactly an allergy is, what causes them, the symptoms that they cause, and ways to treat allergies.

The term “allergy” is used to describe a heightened reaction that the immune system has to a substance. For some people, this may be certain types of food, medication, or cosmetic products. The trigger of an allergy is called an “allergen”. In the case of spring allergies, the allergen causing seasonal symptoms is likely to be pollen from the newly-blooming plants. Pet dander, mold, and even dust can cause allergies indoors, but these types of allergens usually cause year-round allergies rather than seasonal.

So, what are the symptoms of spring allergies? Although each person’s reaction to an allergen can be slightly different, there are a few symptoms that most people share in response to springtime allergens. A runny or a stuffy nose is an extremely common reaction, as is watery or itchy eyes. Sneezing, coughing (due to post-nasal drip), and even itchy ears are other commonly reported allergy symptoms. In people who suffer asthma, spring allergies can actually trigger an asthma attack. Signs of this include shortness of breath, wheezing or coughing, and a tightening sensation in the chest.

Allergens are literally everywhere. In early spring, especially, the increased windiness tends to spread pollen everywhere. This can make it difficult to avoid the allergen even when a person is indoors. Some people suffer such a severe onset of spring allergies that they even have to take time off of work! There are treatments available for allergies, however only about 60% of allergy sufferers report an improvement in their symptoms. The remaining 40% simply endeavor to avoid allergens at all costs.

If you suffer from seasonal allergies, it’s a good idea to determine which allergen is causing your symptoms. Needless to say, the possibilities are numerous; therefore you may prefer to ask your doctor for an allergy test to determine what is triggering your allergies. The most common plants to cause allergies are: (Trees) Alder, Cedar, Cypress, Elm, Maple, Mulberry, Oak, Palm, Pine, Sycamore, Willow, (Weeds and Grass) Bermuda, Johnson, Orchard, Redtop, Saltgrass, and Timothy. If you can determine the cause of your allergy, you could consider eliminating the plant from your yard (if it is present) as a means to find relief at home.

However, removing the allergen from your yard isn’t going to be of much help on windy days or when you venture outside at a friend’s house or public park. The best way to find relief is to try over the counter medications. Antihistamines are a good place to start. Claritin and Zyrtec are popular brands, but many drug stores sell a cheaper alternative. If you suffer from congestion (blocked nose), you might want to consider one of the following: pseudoephedrine (such as Sudafed) or phenylephrine (Sudafed PE). These are pretty powerful and usually quite effective. While they are over the counter medications, you may be asked to provide proof of age such as a driver’s license at the time of purchase. For itchy or watery eyes, you may find relief from eye drops that contain antihistamine.

If your spring allergies are quite severe, you may want to consult your doctor for possible prescription treatments or allergy shots. If you are taking any other medications, you should consult your doctor before taking any over the counter medication.


 

 

 


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