Spring signifies the end of winter with more sunshine, blooming flowers, and the anticipation of summer just around the corner. However, for many, spring can be the worst time of year as it brings with it the constant annoyance of seasonal allergies.
What are Seasonal Allergies?
Seasonal allergies are like other types of allergies as they develop when the body’s immune system is triggered by something in the environment. Seasonal allergies occur when the body overreacts to certain plant pollens. Allergies that occur in a specific season are often referred to as hay fever and it is estimated that about eight percent of Americans experience this.
Hay fever’s name originates from hay-cutting season. Historically, this activity occurred in the spring and summer months, around the same time many people experienced symptoms. However, because various plants release their respective pollen at different times of year, it is possible to experience seasonal allergies all year round. In fact, more than two-thirds of people with spring allergies actually experience allergies throughout the year. Oftentimes, their symptoms during other seasons are mild enough where they are unnoticeable, but they are still being affected by various allergens.
Symptoms of Seasonal Allergies
The severity of seasonal allergies varies from person to person as everyone’s immune response is unique.
Common symptoms include:
- Watery and/or itchy eyes
- Itchy throat, sinuses, and/or ear canals
Other symptoms include:
- Headaches and/or migraines
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Ear congestion
It is important to note that for those who are prone to suffer from a condition that affects their breathing, such as asthma, symptoms can be more severe and can trigger an asthma attack.
Common Allergy Triggers and Other Environmental Factors
In the United States, spring allergies can begin as early as February and last until the summer months. Allergies triggered in earlier months are typically due to tree pollen as they are one of the first types of vegetation to pollinate during this time of year. Tree pollination is then followed by grass and weed pollination, other common spring allergy triggers. Spring allergies can also be worsened by a rainy season, which promotes rapid plant growth and leads to an increase in mold, which can worsen symptoms.
For late summer and fall months, ragweed is a common trigger of allergies. Ragweed is prevalent from August to November and the levels of its pollen are highest in mid-September. In addition to pollen, there are other environmental factors that can influence the severity of allergy symptoms, including:
- Wind and warm weather leads to a surge in pollen counts.
- No wind can lead to airborne allergens such as pollen being grounded.
- Morning hours when pollen levels often peak
- After rainfall when pollen counts increase
- The pollen of trees, grasses, and weeds thrive from the combination of cool nights and warm days.
- Mold can worsen allergies and it grows quickly in hot and humid conditions.
Strategies to Avoid Triggers:
- Monitor pollen and mold counts. For pollen, this information should be accessible via local weather reports. Mold can be included in reports as well, but it is also important to have your home tested for mold if you are experiencing symptoms of seasonal allergies.
- Keep windows and doors closed in your home and car to limit pollen exposure.
- See an allergy specialist to figure out which pollens you are sensitive to. Then, you can check pollen counts of specific plants and be aware of when their pollen levels are at their highest.
- Shower after spending an extended period of time outdoors to remove any allergens that may have attached to you or your clothing.
- When performing outdoor tasks such as mowing the lawn, wear a NIOSH-rated 95 filter mask.
Ways to Alleviate Symptoms:
- Cleanse your nasal passages: Because pollen adheres to the mucus membrane in the nose, it can be beneficial to cleanse your nasal passages with a neti pot, sinus irrigator, or nasal oils.
- Try herbal remedies: Butterbur is a European shrub that acts similar to an antihistamine and is a natural way to relieve symptoms.
- Eat foods with quercetin: Quercetin is found naturally in many foods such as onions, apples, and black tea. This nutrient helps block the release of histamines and can help minimize symptoms.
- Drink apple cider vinegar: Adding just two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to your water a day can help boost the immune system, break up mucus, and support lymphatic drainage, all of which help reduce allergy symptoms.
- Take a probiotic: Studies link the presence of beneficial bacteria in the gut to a decrease in the occurrence of allergy symptoms.
- Incorporate essential oils into your routine: Essential oils have various health benefits and peppermint, basil, eucalyptus, and tea tree oils all have been shown to help combat inflammation, a common cause of symptoms.
- Practice detox methods: Allergies are frequently worsened by toxins in the body. The liver mediates both toxins and inflammation in addition to metabolizing stress, alcohol, processed foods, and other harmful substances. Minimizing the stress put on your liver by avoiding inflammatory foods and alcohol while practicing detox methods can better equip your liver to deal with allergens.
- Try acupuncture: This treatment can help address underlying imbalances and help with symptom relief.
- Visit a chiropractor: Chiropractic care can help release stress on the nervous system, which allows the immune system to function more effectively.
Seasonal allergies can feel like they control your daily life, however, effective lifestyle changes and treatment methods can greatly reduce your symptoms. If you are experiencing severe seasonal allergies and are not getting the help you need, contact Holtorf Medical Group today to see how we can help you!