What Are Seasonal Allergies?
An allergy refers to an increase in sensitivity to a foreign substance known as an allergen. The allergen causes the immune system of the body to overreact when defending itself leading to allergic symptoms. During an allergic reaction, the body's defense system works too hard against substances that are relatively harmless.
The severity of an allergic reaction may vary from a mild response to a severe allergic reaction that can be life-threatening. There are several ways through which allergens can come into contact with the body. They include inhaling the allergens, such as pollens, or coming into contact with them through touching. Allergens can also be ingested from foods.
Seasonal allergies, also known as seasonal allergic rhinitis, are allergic reactions that are observed during a certain period of the year. They are common when molds produce spores and trees, and grasses release pollen into the air.
People who are allergic to the spores and pollen experience an allergic reaction because their immune system responds by producing chemicals such as histamine into the bloodstream. The release of the chemicals leads to allergic symptoms.
The causes of seasonal allergies vary from one season to another. Some symptoms that present with allergic rhinitis include congested nose, itchy eyes, and wheezing. The symptoms are common in the spring or fall when plants release pollen into the air.
Some people are fond of calling these symptoms hay fever. However, Dr. Jordan Josephson, an ENT specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, disapproves of the use of the term. According to his book, “Sinus Relief Now,” seasonal allergies are not an allergy to hay. Rather, it is an allergic response to pollination by weeds. Worldwide statistics show that around 30% of the population is affected with seasonal allergic rhinitis.
Seasonal allergies can be prevented by knowing the exact trigger factor. Lessening exposure to the allergens, as well as treating the reactions, are some of the ways of managing seasonal allergies.
Seasonal allergies can be diagnosed by the allergy skin test method. It is the most sensitive method and it is used to obtain quick results. The skin is pricked with an extract of a known allergen and the results are recorded. Another approach called serum-specific IgE antibody testing can be employed.
Signs and Symptoms of Seasonal Allergies
During the early stages of allergies, its symptoms can be confused with those of a cold. However, symptoms due to seasonal allergic rhinitis occur when an individual encounters possible allergens such as pollen, spores, or mold.
Symptoms that are commonly experienced include itchy eyes, itchy nose, and itchy ears. You may also complain of an itchy throat, sneezing, and nasal congestion. Seasonal allergies may also cause headaches, postnasal drip, and an increased sinus pressure. There will be decreased sense of smell, sleep apnea, snoring, and fatigue.
Most of these symptoms arise from the body’s response to the harmless allergens in an attempt to protect the body from the outside invaders. The antibodies produced by the body succeed in the fight against the invaders. However, they result in symptoms that are characteristic of allergic reactions.
Seasonal allergic symptoms can develop in a person at any age. However, most people present with these symptoms during childhood or early childhood. According to Mayo Clinic, most individuals who undergo treatment for seasonal allergies are children or young adults. The symptoms reduce in severity as people age.
Mostly, children experience food allergies and eczema before developing hay fever. As the years pass, the allergy to food worsens, and later the child develops allergies to indoor and outdoor allergens. The indoor allergies may include dust. Seasonal rhinitis may be due to outdoor causes such as grass pollen, tree pollen, and hay fever.
Hay fever may also cause other medical conditions. Individuals who are allergic to weeds are at a high risk of developing other conditions such as asthma as they age. However, patients who are put on allergy shots and other immunotherapy may not develop asthma.
Top Causes of Seasonal Allergies
Seasonal allergies are caused by different trigger factors depending on the time of year. The trigger factors can also vary depending on the region. Discussed below are the various causes of seasonal allergies according to the seasons.
During springtime, trees are responsible for most of the allergic reactions. The most frequent offender in the northern latitudes is Birch. Many people with seasonal allergic rhinitis react to the pollens produced by Birch during spring. Other allergic reactions during spring include cedar, poplar, horse chestnut, and alder.
Ragweed is the major offender during the autumn season. There are more than 40 species of the ragweed plant worldwide. Most of these plants grow in the temperate regions of South America. They are also common in some parts of North America.
They are invasive plants, and their growth cannot be controlled easily. Their pollens are common allergens during the fall, and their symptoms can be severe. Other plants that may produce allergens in the autumn include sorrels, mug Worts, plantains, and nettles.
The term Hay fever was derived from the fact that most people develop its symptoms at the same time as the historical hay-cutting season. The cutting of hay is mostly done in the summer months.
Ryegrass and the Timothy-grass mainly cause summertime seasonal allergies. Some weeds may also produce allergens during summer. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America suggests that grasses are the major offenders during summer.
During winter, most of the outdoor allergens lie dormant. During winter, the cold weather relieves people with seasonal allergic rhinitis. Most people spend time indoors during winter due to the cold weather.
As a result, individuals who are prone to seasonal allergies may also react to indoor allergens such as dust, pet dander, and mold.
Top Treatments for Seasonal Allergies
You should take actions to avoid seasonal allergies. Rather than using ceiling fans, you can choose to use an air conditioner that has a HEPA filter to help cool your home during summer.
Limit the use of carpets in your house. Carpets provide a breeding ground for dust mites. You should also keep you bare floor vacuumed and damp-mopped on a regular basis. Limit the access of pets to particular areas such as the bedroom. Keep windows closed on windy days to prevent pollens from getting into the house. The curtains should be replaced with shades.
Personal exposure can be limited by reducing the amount of time spent outside. Avoid individuals that smoke since the smoke can worsen the allergic symptoms.
You should put on a face mask when you want to clean dusty places such as the garage. Nasal lavage is best for individuals with nasal congestion or a runny nose. Irrigate the nose with salt water to soothe the upper respiratory allergies by getting rid of irritants that are logged in the nose.
2. Dietary Changes
Dietary changes are essential throughout the allergy seasons. Food intolerance is common during the allergy seasons because fewer resources are available for digestion.
Ensure adequate intake of water to keep the body hydrated as sufficient intake of water prevents the formation of thick mucus which is responsible for congestion. Reduce the intake of sugars since excess sugars may interfere with the functioning of the immune system. Avoid excess consumption of dairy since it increases the production of mucus. Excess intake of bananas is also known to enhance mucus production.
Beneficial foods include peppermint tea as it has anti-inflammatory and mild anti-bacterial properties. A dose of horseradish may also help in relieving the symptoms associated with seasonal allergies. It is known to clear the sinuses and increasing mucus flow. Honey may also contribute to alleviating symptoms related to seasonal allergies. It should be added to hot water or other forms of tea for maximum benefit.
You should also increase the consumption of foods such as dark green vegetables, flax seeds, and whole grains. Fish such as salmon and sardines is also thought to help relieve the allergic symptoms. Foods rich in vitamins C and D can assist in the management of seasonal allergies. Vitamin C reduces the severity of allergic reactions by inhibiting the activity of histamine.
When the avoidance of allergens is not possible, some treatments can be employed to manage its symptoms. There are over-the-counter antihistamines and decongestants that you can get without a prescription from a doctor.
They include cetirizine whose brand name is Zyrtec. There is also a combination of acetaminophen, diphenhydramine, and phenylephrine under the brand name Benadryl. Prescription medications include steroid nasal sprays.
In cases of severe allergic reactions, the doctor may recommend allergy shots. It is an immunotherapy that can be used to desensitize the immune system to the trigger factors. Some allergic medications may cause adverse effects such as dizziness, confusion, and drowsiness.
How to Beat Seasonal Allergies Conclusion
Seasonal allergy is a common medical condition across the world. The best way to manage the occurrence of the allergic symptoms involves the use of the preventive measures such as avoiding exposure to the allergens.
Dietary changes may also help reduce the severity of the allergic reactions. Consumption of foods rich in nutrients such as vitamin C and D is highly recommended. Other nutrients to include in the diet plan include magnesium, bromelain, and quercetin.