Seasonal allergies, oof. 1 in 6 Americans experience the downright exhausting symptoms of seasonal allergies: the watery eyes, the runny nose, the itchy throat, the cursing of trees, flowers, and everything so beautiful yet so infuriating.
While the spring and fall months are aesthetically pleasing, you may have grown a mild to moderate resentment towards these seasonal shifts as you grab your first box of tissues. How do you get rid of allergies? Can you get rid of allergies or is there a cure for allergies? These are common questions among allergy sufferers, understandably.
In this article, we will define seasonal allergies, provide a list of common seasonal allergy triggers, and discuss how to get rid of allergies or at least reduce your seasonal allergy symptoms and improve your quality of life during peak allergy months.
What Are Seasonal Allergies?
Allergies are the body’s reaction to a generally harmless substance that has been deemed an “invader” by the body. Allergy triggers otherwise known as “allergens” will send the body’s immune system into fight mode, releasing histamines and other chemicals throughout the body. These chemicals cause what we know as common allergy symptoms, which include: watery eyes, itching, sneezing, runny nose, congestion, headache, and more.
Seasonal allergies or “hay fever” are allergies triggered by seasonal shifts, specifically as it relates to the weather, pollen production, and humidity levels. Geographical location impacts seasonal allergies; for instance, if you move from the West Coast to the Midwest, the timing of your seasonal allergies may shift as different plants release pollen at different times of the year.
What Causes Seasonal Allergies?
Typically, seasonal allergies are triggered by specific types of pollen and molds that increase spore production during certain seasons. While pollen itself is harmless, many people develop an immune response to pollen, which triggers the body to treat pollen as an allergen trying to invade the body producing histamine and other chemicals, which result in seasonal allergy symptoms.
Trees are a common cause of spring allergies. More specifically, birch, cedar, alder, maple, willow, poplar, and oak trees can trigger seasonal allergy symptoms during the spring and early summer months.
Grass and weeds are also common causes of seasonal allergies. Ragweed, which grows virtually everywhere, releases pollen in the late summer and early fall months and peaks mid-September causing mild to severe allergy symptoms.
Burning bush, sagebrush, mugwort, lamb’s quarters, tumbleweed, pigweed, and Russian thistle can trigger allergy symptoms as well, particularly during the fall months.
Plants, grass, and weeds are not the only seasonal allergy triggers: smoke from campfires in the summer and fireplaces during the winter, insect bites, swimming pool chlorine, pine trees and wreaths during the holidays, and much more can produce allergy symptoms.
How to Get Rid of Allergies
While there is no known cure for allergies, there are ways to reduce exposure to potential triggers and improve the day-to-day quality of life. If seasonal allergy symptoms have you down in the dumps, you can try one or all of the following tips to improve your symptoms.
The most obvious way to avoid seasonal allergy symptoms is to avoid potential triggers. Though unsustainable for long periods of time (everyone needs to leave their house at some point), avoidance is the easiest way to prevent sparking a whole range of seasonal allergy symptoms.
Pollen.com is a useful resource that provides daily pollen counts throughout the United States. Check this site daily for information on pollen and mold counts and try to remain indoors and keep your windows closed on high count days.
Take Protective Measures
During allergy season, it is not uncommon to have weeks with high pollen counts. Since indoor seclusion to avoid triggering seasonal allergies is unnecessarily cruel, there are protective or preventative measures you can take to avoid prolonged exposure to pollen, mold, and the like.
When outdoors, wear sunglasses to shield your eyes from pollen; since we can’t all pull off wrap around sunglasses, adding a baseball cap or a floppy hat can add additional protection for your face. Hats can also prevent pollen, mold spores, or other contaminants from sticking to your hair, which will inevitably pollute your home air.
If your lawn needs some TLC and you simply cannot delegate the work to your partner, an eager neighborhood teenager looking for spending money, or a gardening service, you can safely mow your grass while wearing a mask. This applies to any outdoor chores that involve potential triggers like gardening, sweeping, watering the plants, and more.
If you prefer a quick cure for allergies rather than avoiding seasonal allergy triggers, you can head to your local pharmacy for an effective OTC medication like Zyrtec, Allegra, or Claritin. To note: if you have any preexisting conditions, chronic conditions, or are currently taking medication, speak with your doctor before taking an OTC antihistamine.
Antihistamines work by blocking seasonal allergy symptom-causing histamines in the body, helping to relieve watery eyes, runny nose, sneezing, or itching. We advise that you read the Drug Facts label before choosing an OTC antihistamine to avoid any unwanted side effects. Some antihistamines will cause drowsiness and dizziness, which could be dangerous if operating heavy machinery (a car included!).
Purify Home Air
Wondering how to get rid of allergy symptoms in your home? Keep a close eye on indoor air quality. While this sounds like a scientific endeavor, it is really quite simple.
Keeping your home clean by regularly vacuuming carpeting and rugs, sweeping and mopping your floors, and wiping down hard surfaces is an easy way to purify home air. A quick vacuum once per week and a daily sweep-up will help to keep seasonal allergy triggers at bay.
Dry home air and excessively humid air can exacerbate seasonal allergy symptoms. You can monitor humidity levels in your home with a hygrometer, which can be found at home improvement stores, home goods stores, or on Amazon. Optimal home humidity levels range from 40% to 60%; if humidity levels fall below 40%, introducing a humidifier into your space can dramatically improve allergy symptoms among many other benefits. If home humidity levels exceed 60%, you can run central air conditioning or open windows throughout your house.
When Should You Call a Doctor?
If you suffer from chronic allergy symptoms, symptoms that last longer than 6 weeks, or any seasonal allergy symptoms that impair daily function, you should make an appointment with your doctor. Your doctor can refer you to an allergist or an immunologist who can perform blood or skin tests that will help to diagnose specific allergens that trigger your symptoms.