Seasonal allergies are very common among both children and adults. Another name for these seasonal allergies is hay fever, or medically, allergic rhinitis. This condition develops when the immune system overreacts to substances it views as harmful. These substances typically are not harmful, unless you have allergies.
Hay fever can be seasonal or perennial depending on your immune system. The allergens that affect seasonal allergies are airborne and breathed in.
In this article, we’ll explore hay fever as a seasonal allergy, its symptoms, and how to treat them.
When is Allergy Season?
Seasonal allergies are most present during the spring, summer, and fall. The most common allergens in the spring and summer are tree pollens. This substance is usually around from March to the middle of May. From mid-May to mid-July, grass pollen may affect some allergies. Lastly, predominate ragweed and other weed pollens are present in the fall, from mid-August until the first frost. Outdoor mold is also a common allergen present in the fall.
Symptoms will develop when you breathe in an allergen your body is sensitive to. However, allergy seasons may change from one year to the next. It all depends on the meteorological conditions.
For example, if the spring is cold and rainy, this may delay tree pollen season. Then this causes it to overlap with grass pollen season, creating worse reactions for people with seasonal allergies.
Rainy days help wash some of the pollen and therefore will have lower pollen counts. On the other hand, warm breezy days tend to have higher pollen counts. To view the pollen status in your area, visit Pollen.com.
Common Symptoms of Seasonal Allergies
The most common symptoms are a stuffy nose and runny nose, or postnasal drip. There is also a lot of itchiness due to excess histamine, affecting the nose, mouth, eyes, and throat. The eyes become red and watery and the eyelids are puffy and swollen. Sneezing, wheezing, and coughing may often develop in response to the allergen. Many people also experience significant fatigue.
The severity of symptoms varies from one person to another. Some people may not have symptoms at all, yet lab tests will show elevated IgE levels when exposed to a specific allergen. Others will have mild symptoms.
In rare cases, seasonal allergies can trigger life-threatening conditions like anaphylaxis. About 0.05-2% of people in the United States have anaphylaxis at some point in their lives. Most cases are from food allergies (more prevalent in children), drug allergies (more common in adults), insect stings, and latex allergies.
Older age, history of asthma, and having other comorbid conditions may increase the risk of severe allergic reactions. There is some evidence that Vitamin D and sun exposure may help reduce the risk of anaphylaxis. The research is still ongoing.
Symptoms of anaphylaxis start 5-30 minutes after coming into contact with an allergen. to which a person is allergic to. The warning signs of anaphylaxis include:
- Red, itchy skin rashes
- Swollen throat
- Difficulty breathing
- Hoarse voice
- Tightness in the chest
- Stomach cramping
It is important to seek medical attention right away, as anaphylaxis can lead to shock. Everyone with a history of anaphylaxis should have an epinephrine kit at home. Some cases need a second dose of epinephrine. Anyone experiencing anaphylaxis should call 911 and seek treatment at a hospital.
Lesser-Known Conditions Associated with Seasonal Allergies
According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, hay fever has more impact on a person’s quality of life and overall health than most people think.
There are other conditions associated with hay fever including:
- Decreased ability to focus or make decisions
- Impaired hand-eye coordination
- Trouble remember things
- Increased irritability
Children can be irritable and moody during allergy season and are likely to act out. As a result, they may be misdiagnosed with ADHD.
Hay fever is also linked with limited activities, sleep disturbances, and daytime fatigue. All these issues can lead to missed days at school or work and car accidents.
Prevention and Treatment
Many allergens that trigger seasonal allergies are airborne and can’t be completely avoided. Try to stay indoors when pollen counts peak, usually in the early morning and early evening. Wear protective glasses, avoid window fans that bring pollen and mold into the house. Avoid rubbing your eyes, even if they are very itchy because doing so will further irritate your eyes. Properly maintain your home’s air condition and clean it often to avoid mold buildup.
Treatments for seasonal allergies include over-the-counter drugs and prescription medication. Allergy specialists believe intranasal corticosteroids are the most effective drugs to treat hay fever. These drugs significantly decrease nasal congestion, sneezing, itching, and a runny nose. Antihistamines, decongestants, saline solution sprays, nasal cromolyn, and leukotriene inhibitors are other drugs used to treat allergies. Allergy shots are another treatment option but are usually reserved for cases that do not respond well to medication.
It is important to know that over-the-counter drugs work only in mild cases of allergies. For more serious symptoms you will need to consult a specialist to get the right treatment.
Symptoms may also change over time. Some allergies may disappear, while new allergies can develop. Your allergy specialist will help to adjust the medication.
Seasonal allergies, or hay fever, are extremely common. Allergy season usually lasts from March to October. Most people experience mild reactions that can make them uncomfortable. However, it is possible to have severe reactions like anaphylaxis, though it’s rare.
Take over-the-counter allergy medication to relieve your symptoms. When possible, avoid being outdoors during peak pollen times. You can also receive pollen reports in your area for better planning.