Whether you call them allergic rhinitis, hay fever, or seasonal allergies, the havoc their symptoms wreak can make you feel equally miserable. Some allergies vary from season to season, between individuals, and are triggered by any number of allergens. No matter why they start up though, the reality is that most people affected by seasonal allergies often experience quite the physical, emotional, social, and financial burden.
What Are Seasonal Allergies?
While you can be allergic to specific things, such as peanuts, flowers, or strong perfume, seasonal allergies have earned their name by virtue of the fact that they tend to come on during specific seasons. Seasonal allergies tend to occur less often in the winter time, though it is possible for them to appear year round.
Allergies are brought on for different reasons, based upon the pollutants in the air at any given time. The most common offenders per season are listed below.
Pollen from grass, weeds, and trees are released into the air during the Spring. When people with sensitivities to these allergens come in contact with them, histamines are released into the system, causing a cascade of what we experience as allergy symptoms.
In addition to pollen, other allergens appear during the summer months including the oils produced by poison oak, sumac, and ivy. Warmer weather introduces more bugs and insects and they too can cause allergic reactions in those they bite. And if you live in a warm, wet climate, you are a prime candidate for exposure to the mold and dust mites that thrive under these conditions.
Though cooler temperatures mean that there is less plant growth and therefore less pollen, some plants continue to pollinate and therefore pollute, the air. Mold and dust that have been tucked away in vents and filters are given an opportunity to thrive and spread in cooler, fall temperatures. As heaters get turned on, these substances are awakened if you will, and released into the air.
As temperatures get cooler, mold and dust continue to be a problem, particularly for the highly sensitive.
Types of Allergies
Sneezing, itching, watery eyes, congestion, sinusitis, and difficulty breathing are symptoms of both seasonal and other types of allergies. There are differences in how each set of allergies manifests however, based on how one is exposed, where one is exposed, and for how long exposure to the allergen lasts.
The three types of exposure to all allergens include ingestion, contact, and inhalation.
Ingested allergens include foods, oral medications, or any substances that are eaten.
Contact allergens that touch your skin, such as fabric, dye, or soap, can cause a rash or contact dermatitis.
Inhaled allergens include anything that is breathed in through the respiratory system, such as dust, pet dander, mold, or pollen that can set off your allergies.
How to Treat Seasonal Allergies
Seasonal allergies can cause discomfort, aggravation, pain, and even lead to lost wages. Clearly there are situations and substances we can and should avoid, such as not going to areas with significant amounts of pollen or touching ragweed. But considering the fact that seasonal allergies appear to be getting more difficult to deal with year after year, all the avoidance in the world may not be as easy as it sounds.
Despite not being foolproof, there are ways you can prevent, or at least minimize your exposure to the pollutants that cause seasonal allergies. For example, keeping car and house windows closed so as to minimize pollen exposure, switching out of outdoor clothing as you soon as you get indoors, and using air conditioning to keep the air cool since allergens do better in the heat, is a great place to start. Staying indoors when pollen levels are at their highest, and limiting time spent outdoors to after it rains, are also excellent ways to keep you at a healthy distance from the most potent contributors to seasonal allergies. The use of high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters in bedrooms, is also a useful method of keeping allergens at bay.
Antihistamines and other treatments are available for those times when you need to attend to the seasonal allergies you simply could not prevent. Other tools in the anti- allergy arsenal include decongestants. They are known to be quite effective, though alcohol intake should be avoided when using them, as they are dangerously contraindicated. Nasal sprays, neti pots, and even acupuncture have also proven helpful in the treatment of congestion and sinusitis brought on by seasonal allergies.
No matter when they attack, allergies are no fun. And despite our most fervent attempts to conduct our affairs as far away from allergens as possible, they simply abound in the public sphere, affecting the health and welfare of us all. Dr. Shahen Kurestian, DC of Body Systems Wellness in Glendale, California is dedicated to his patients’ well being and uses his convictions to safely assist patients experiencing seasonal allergies.