We often think of spring as "allergy season." But if you're an allergy sufferer, every season can seem like allergy season. What steps can you take to keep your allergies from becoming an irritation all year round?
Common Allergy Symptoms
Allergic reactions occur in two phases: the histamine reaction and the delayed response. The histamine reaction happens upon immediate exposure to allergens. Meanwhile, the delayed response happens after allergen exposure over a long period of time.
Someone experiencing a histamine reaction might have these symptoms:
- Itching eyes
- Itchy throat
- Runny nose
- Eye irritation
- Nasal congestion, which tends to build up the longer other symptoms go on.
The delayed response happens as a result of chronic inflammation. It usually manifests as bad nasal congestion and irritation that worsens over time.
When we talk about allergens, we're mainly talking about pollen, which comes from the flowers of plants and trees. Because different flowers and trees produce pollen at different times, there's no "one" season for allergies.
The period from late February to summer tends to be the worst for many allergy sufferers. Tree pollens such as oak, maple, and river birch are blooming during this time. The dry wind we see in early spring will spread allergens and raise the pollen count. Spring rains often flush everything down to the ocean and drop pollen counts. However, this warm wet weather can cause mold count to rise -- meaning trouble for those with mold allergies.
From June to August and even September is the season for grass pollen allergies. Grass is growing everywhere, and grass pollen is a potent allergen, meaning those allergic to it will suffer the most during this time of year. The hot, humid weather will mean continuing difficulty for those allergic to mold.
Read more: How Your Air Quality Affects Your Allergies
Fall is the season for weed pollens -- ragweed, thistle, goldenrod and more. From late summer into the fall, these allergens can persist until the first hard frost of the year. As with the spring, dry wind can make airborne allergies a nuisance.
It's true there are no defined seasonal allergens in the winter. However, the things you're allergic to the rest of the year will still be around: dust mites, pets, and so on. The dryness and coldness of the air can also cause congestion. During the winter, you should manage your environment to reduce your exposure to indoor allergens.
Read more: Can an ENT doctor treat my allergies?
What Can You Do to Manage Your Allergies?
While it's difficult to entirely eliminate the effects of allergens on your body, there are steps you can take to make the symptoms less severe. Over-the-counter medications and antihistamines can treat allergies for a few weeks without a problem, and nasal steroid sprays work well for chronic symptoms. Other solutions include:
If you have seasonal allergies and work outside, change out of your daytime clothes once you're home. This will reduce your exposure to any allergens collected during the day.
- Wash your sheets weekly to reduce allergen buildup.
- Keep your windows closed.
- Stay inside from 10am to 4pm if possible.
- Saline sinus rinses help flush out allergens and limit the allergic reaction.
- If you're allergic to your pets, keep them out of your bedroom.
- Plan ahead for next month’s allergy. If you know oak tree pollen will be high in March and April, start taking medication in February.
No one likes allergies. With a few lifestyle changes and basic caution, you can manage your allergies and get back to your life.